Rheumatoid arthritis may increase risk of heart disease, heart attacks
NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 21, 2005
People with rheumatoid arthritis not only have a higher risk of coronary heart disease than those in the general population, but they also have more silent, unrecognized heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths, according to a Mayo Clinic study published in the February issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism. They are much less likely to complain of chest pain.
Increased heart disease risk may be present even before noticing rheumatoid arthritis, researchers said.
The researchers were surprised that the increase in cardiac events could not be explained by an increase in traditional heart disease risk factors such as elevated cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass index, diabetes and alcohol abuse, said Hilal Maradit Kremers, MD, lead investigator and a research associate in Mayo's Dept. of Health Sciences Research.
When the rheumatoid arthritis patient saw a physician for other reasons and an electrocardiogram was ordered, it revealed past silent attacks.
"We suspect that the systemic inflammation that characterizes rheumatoid arthritis also promotes cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular death," said Sherine Gabriel, MD, the study's senior author and Mayo Clinic rheumatologist, epidemiologist and chair of the Dept. of Health Sciences Research.
The goal of our research is to disentangle the complex relationship between these two diseases," Dr. Gabriel said.
Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/02/21/hlbf0221.htm.