Purpose: A persistent inflammatory response accompanying chronic infections may contribute to the risk of coronary atherothrombosis. Recent studies have reported an association between chronic respiratory infections and an increased risk of coronary heart disease; however, these reports have not accounted for important confounders such as impaired lung function.
Methods: We considered chronic cough as an indicator of chronic lung infection or inflammation in the original Framingham Heart Study participants aged 47 to 89 years. Chronic cough was defined as a cough present for at least 3 months in the preceding year and was categorized as either nonproductive or productive. The association of chronic cough with myocardial infarction was examined for six consecutive examination cycles (1965 to 1979) among participants free of myocardial infarction at the baseline examination. In a secondary analysis, plasma fibrinogen levels were measured during examination cycle 10 (1965 to 1967) in a subgroup of the study sample (n = 1,288). Multivariable logistic regression analysis was performed adjusting for age, gender, smoking status, forced vital capacity, and other known risk factors.
Results: The cross-sectional pooling method yielded 15,656 person-examinations in 3,637 subjects. During follow-up, there were 291 incident myocardial infarctions. Chronic nonproductive cough (odds ratio [OR] 1.8, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1 to 2.8) and chronic productive cough (OR 1.6, CI 1.1 to 2.4) were independent predictors of myocardial infarction. Results were unchanged when we further adjusted for a history of heart failure. Adjusted plasma fibrinogen levels (mean +/- SD) were greater in those with chronic nonproductive cough than among those without cough (3.2 +/- 0.6 g/L versus 2.9 +/- 0.6 g/dL, P = 0.001).
Conclusions: These findings provide evidence that chronic cough, a clinical manifestation of pulmonary infection or chronic inflammation, is associated with the risk of myocardial infarction. Acute phase reactants such as plasma fibrinogen may be implicated in this association. Prospective serologic studies of infections as predictors of coronary heart disease risk are warranted.