New research shows a link between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and heart disease with RA sufferers more likely to die of cardiovascular disease.
Inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis itself is one of the reasons for the increased risk of heart disease according to the new research but some treatments may help reduce that risk.The study, which followed more than 400 RA sufferers over five years, was the work of doctors from University Hospital, Umea in Sweden, and is published in BioMed Central's open access journal Arthritis Research & Therapy.
The subjects' RA was monitored alongside the treatment used to tackle it and other risk factors for heart disease like weight, levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and smoking.
At the end of the five year study, 97% of the subjects had been treated with disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and their RA was improved. Patients also took action themselves to live a healthier lifestyle - fewer of those treated were smokers; their body mass index had fallen and blood pressure levels were better.
Diabetes, high blood pressure and the level of triglycerides (chemicals taken in from animal fats) and the intensity of RA were found to be the best predictors of heart disease. Pain relieving COX-2 inhibitor drug treatments were linked to heart disease but DMARDs decreased the risk according to the study.
Dr Wallberg-Jonsson said: "Inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis increases patients risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular events. However it is possible to reduce this risk in a two-pronged attack by treating both the inflammation and traditional risk factors for heart disease."
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