According to a recent study, rheumatoid arthritis may no longer double the risk of heart attack and stroke, as efforts to reduce heart disease risk in rheumatoid arthritis patients paid off in recent years.
The findings were unveiled at the annual gathering of the American College of Rheumatology in San Francisco, Calif.
Researchers explained that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is linked with a high risk of cardiovascular disease due to high levels of inflammation it triggers within the body. Inflammation often damages blood vessels and has a negative impact on organs and tissue.
In RA, inflammation promotes the formation of plaque on blood vessels. Plaque is dense clump of cholesterol, calcium and other organic compounds which can block arteries and severely interfere with blood flow.
Plaque can also block smaller vessels, so that the increased pressure triggered by hampered blood flow can lead to stroke or heart attacks. Inflammation can also be located within RA patients’ hearts, which can boost risk of heart failure.
Yet, heart failure’s symptoms are often taken for RA symptoms – swelling of lower parts of the legs, fatigue, and shortness of breath – which can lead to life-threatening complications.
Inflammation caused by RA can also lead to a swollen pericardium or the outer sac that envelops the heart. This can result in intense and recurrent chest pain.
RA may also boost risk of heart beat disorder also known as atrial fibrillation, which was often tied with cardiovascular disease, and death. Researchers concluded that reining in inflammation in RA-patients is crucial to reduce their heart disease and mortality risk.
Past studies showed that heart problems can occur within one year since the patient was diagnosed with RA. Past research also revealed that RA-patients have double the risk of heart disease than non-RA patients.
Within one to four years after the diagnosis, the risk of having a heart attack jumps 60 percent, while the risk of coronary death and other heart complications rises by 50 percent, past studies had shown.
But the new study found that efforts to reduce heart disease risk among RA patients really paid off.
A team led by Mayo Clinic researcher Dr. Elena Myasoedova analyzed the deaths caused by cardiovascular disease in RA patients within a decade since the first diagnosis. There was also a control group made of people who died of heart disease but they weren’t previously diagnosed with RA.
Researchers found that the rate of heart-disease-related deaths decreased from 7.9 percent in the 1980s and 1990s to 2.8 percent in the early 2000s. Deaths from coronary artery disease in RA patients are also lower, since in the 1990s the mortality rate was 4.7 percent while in the early 2000s the rate decreased to 1.2 percent.
Researchers argued that the positive results are linked to earlier diagnosis, raised awareness among RA patients, improvement treatments, and “more attention to heart health in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.”
Image Source: Torange
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