Risk of vascular disease in adults with diagnosed coeliac disease: a population-based study

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Abstract

Background

It has been suggested that vascular disease mortality may be reduced in coeliac disease because of lower levels of blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass.

Aim

To examine whether people with coeliac disease are at reduced risk of various vascular diseases.

Methods

We identified 3790 adults with diagnosed coeliac disease and 17 925 age- and sex-matched controls in the General Practice Research Database. We estimated odds ratios for diagnosed hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia and atrial fibrillation and hazard ratios for myocardial infarction and stroke.

Results

Adults with coeliac disease, compared with controls, were less likely to have had a diagnosis of hypertension [11% vs. 15%, odds ratio 0.68 (95% confidence interval: 0.60–0.76)] or hypercholesterolaemia [3.0% vs. 4.8%, odds ration 0.58 (95% confidence interval: 0.47–0.72)] but slightly more likely to have had atrial fibrillation [2.1% vs. 1.7%, odds ratio 1.26 (95% confidence interval: 0.97–1.64)]. The hazard ratio for myocardial infarction was 0.85 (95% confidence interval: 0.63–1.13), while the hazard ratio for stroke was 1.29 (95% confidence interval: 0.98–1.70).

Conclusions

Although rates of myocardial infarction and stroke were not substantially different, adults with coeliac disease do have a lower prevalence of hypertension and hypercholesterolaemia compared with the general population. The effect of a gluten-free diet on cardiovascular risk factors should be determined before any screening programmes for coeliac disease are instituted.

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