People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have a reduced life expectancy and a higher risk for cardiovascular disease than the general population. A recent study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN set out to determine how to predict which RA patients are at a higher risk than others in order to provide better preventative treatment.
The study involved more than 1,100 people (average age 57 years), 75% of whom were women. Roughly half the study group had just been diagnosed with RA. The researchers determined a heart disease risk factor (very low to very high) for each participant based on established criteria. Each participant’s heart health was monitored over the next 12 to 14 years.
The results showed that more than half of the RA patients 50 to 59 years old, and all the RA patients over the age of 60 had at least a 10% chance of developing heart disease within 10 years of an RA diagnosis.
According to a HealthDay report on the study, “the Mayo researchers are encouraging doctors to conduc heart-disease assessment screenings similar to the ones used in the study for each of their RA patients. These screenings should be done as soon as possible following an RA diagnosis and prevention strategies put into place.”
While it is not completely understood why RA patients have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease or death, inflammation may be playing a key role in producing dangerous plaque formations within the arteries of the heart, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Mozes, A., 2007. “Rheumatoid Arthritis Boosts Heart Disease Threat”, Health Day.
Arthritis Foundation, 2007. “Rheumatoid Arthritis and Heart Disease,”
Eustice, C., 2007. “RA Patients at Higher Risk for Unrecognized Heart Disease, Cardiac Sudden Death,” About.com website.