As it turns out, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) doesn’t just affect the function of your joints. New research has found that people with the condition are also at a higher risk of heart disease and cardiovascular events including heart attack and stroke.
In a statement, the scientists behind the research said, “In patients referred to cardiac CT due to chest pain, we found a trend of an association between RA and the combined primary outcome, supporting that RA per se, but in particular seropositive and active RA, may increase the risk [for coronary artery disease] even after initial [coronary artery disease] diagnosis and treatment.”
For their study, the researchers analyzed data from 42, 257 patients logged in the Western Denmark Heart Registry between 2008 and 2016. Containing data on CT angiography examinations, they were also able to access RA diagnosis from nationwide administrative registers. With this information, they were able to assess the risk for major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) and mortality rates among people with RA who had a cardiac CT scan for chest pain.
The study found that patients had undergone a series of cardiac events, including myocardial infarction, percutaneous coronary intervention, ischemic and unspecified stroke, coronary artery bypass grafting and others, some leading to death.
In the end, the researchers found that almost half of all adults with heart disease have some sort of arthritis. Moreover, they found that people with RA have a 50-70% higher chance of developing cardiovascular disease than the general population, while people with osteoarthritis have a 24% higher risk for heart disease than those without the condition. They also found that women have a higher risk of both heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis on average.
To reduce one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease and arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation recommends regular exercise. According to Kindle Fisher, a physical therapist in Pennsylvania Exercises such as walking, swimming, or using a stationary bike can increase blood flow and synovial fluid to the joints. Increasing blood flow will also strengthen the heart...While there are severe cases of arthritis where it’s not always possible to do so, any type of activity can release endorphins, improve health, and help you feel better overall.”