The mortality from ischaemic heart disease was studied in a prospective cohort of 1725 shipyard workers exposed to asbestos. The analyses were stratified for age and smoking habits and restricted to men. In agreement with other findings, men with impaired lung function had a significantly higher risk (relative risk (RR) = 3.5) of dying from ischaemic heart disease than men with normal lung function. Men with asbestosis or suspected asbestosis had a significantly higher risk (RR = 3.1) of dying from ischaemic heart disease than men without asbestosis. Thus asbestosis or suspected asbestosis also seemed to be a risk factor for ischaemic heart disease. This finding was independent of respiratory function. There was no increased risk for ischaemic heart disease in men with compared with men without pleural plaques. Men with production of phlegm or sputum and wheezing or whistling had no increased risk for ischaemic heart disease compared with men without these symptoms. In the group with normal lung function men with dyspnoea had a significantly higher risk of dying from ischaemic heart disease than men without dyspnoea. The findings for men with asbestosis or suspected asbestosis indicated a further risk factor besides impaired lung function, in persons exposed to asbestos. Perhaps this risk factor is due to lesions of the pericardium with consequences for heart function.
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