Hypertension has often been dubbed the “silent killer” because most people don’t feel any different when their blood pressure is elevated, yet longstanding hypertension has adverse effects on so many organ systems – heart, brain, eyes, kidneys, etc – that it will eventually kill the patient if the hypertension is left untreated.
A study out this month in the journal “Gastroenterology” shows that there may be a new “silent killer” on the block.
The authors analyzed blood samples from 9100 adults at the Warren Air Force Base collected between 1948 and 1954, looking for serum markers of celiac disease. They then compared the rates of undiagnosed celiac disease with recent blood samples from patients in a Minnesota town. The study had two surprising conclusions.
First, the incidence of celiac disease in patients 60 years ago was 0.2% while the incidence of celiac disease in the current blood samples was 0.8% to 0.9%. I wasn’t able to access the whole study on the Gastroenterology web site, but other confounding factors such as sampling bias may have explained at least some of these differences.
Second, patients with undiagnosed celiac disease had a nearly 4-fold increase in risk of death during the 45 year follow up period. Again, correlation does not necessarily mean causation, so it would be interesting to see the causes of death in the study population. Untreated celiac disease is associated with an increased incidence of lymphomas, thyroid disease, and gastrointestinal cancers, so an increase in death from those diseases in the study population would be more impressive than a bunch of deaths from car accidents or drug overdoses.
Will have to go to the medical library and pull the article to read through it further, but just found the conclusions surprising.