Rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease: Studies shed light on dangerous connection

October 26, 2013, Mayo Clinic

People with rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic inflammatory conditions are at higher risk of heart disease. Who is in the most danger, why and how best to prevent and detect cardiovascular complications are important questions for physicians and researchers. Mayo Clinic studies presented at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting shed new light on this connection, in part by revealing factors that seem to put some rheumatoid arthritis patients in greater jeopardy of heart problems: early menopause, more severe rheumatoid arthritis and immunity to a common virus, cytomegalovirus, among others.

In one study, Mayo researchers discovered that patients whose is more severe are likelier to have . That becomes true soon after rheumatoid arthritis strikes, making early treatment of rheumatoid arthritis important, says co-author Eric Matteson, M.D., chair of rheumatology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

"One thing that we learned in particular in this study is that the high disease burden on the joints in the first year of disease already is a very strong predictor of cardiovascular disease subsequently, and that seems to be mitigated as time goes on if the disease burden can be reduced too," Dr. Matteson says.

In other research, a Mayo team looked at a common virus called cytomegalovirus, a bug many people get and do not even know they have. They found correlations between rheumatoid arthritis patients' immune response to the virus and the development of myocardial disease.

If it turns out that there is this relationship, then it may be that one way to spot patients who are at higher risk for heart disease would be an immune profile or biomarkers related to the cytomegalovirus and its associated immune activation signaling," says Dr. Matteson, a co-author.

Another study found that women with rheumatoid arthritis and early menopause—menopause before age 45—also seem to be at higher risk of heart disease. About two-thirds of patients with rheumatoid arthritis are women, and researchers have long studied possible hormonal influences on development of the disease, Dr. Matteson says.

"This study shows the complex relationship between rheumatoid arthritis, hormones and ," says Dr. Matteson, the senior author. "We also found who have had multiple children, especially seven or more, are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease compared with women who have menopause at a normal age or have fewer children."

Explore further: Rheumatoid arthritis patients can get gout too, study finds

Related Stories

Rheumatoid arthritis patients can get gout too, study finds

November 10, 2012
Refuting a belief long held by many physicians, a Mayo Clinic study found that rheumatoid arthritis patients also can get gout. The research is among several studies Mayo Clinic is presenting at the American College of Rheumatology ...

Lower GI problems plague many with rheumatoid arthritis

April 3, 2012
Add lower gastrointestinal (GI) problems such as ulcers, bleeding and perforations to the list of serious complications facing many rheumatoid arthritis patients. They are at greater risk for GI problems and gastrointestinal-related ...

Standard heart disease risk tools underrate danger in rheumatoid arthritis

May 21, 2012
Heart disease risk assessment tools commonly used by physicians often underestimate the cardiovascular disease danger faced by rheumatoid arthritis patients, a Mayo Clinic study has found. Inflammation plays a key role in ...

Big toe isn't biggest culprit in gout flare-ups; other joints tied to higher risk

June 11, 2013
The painful rheumatic condition gout is often associated with the big toe, but it turns out that patients at highest risk of further flare-ups are those whose gout first involved other joints, such as a knee or elbow, Mayo ...

Obesity epidemic fueling rise in rheumatoid arthritis among women

April 25, 2012
Obesity and the painful autoimmune disorder rheumatoid arthritis are each becoming more common, raising a logical question: Could one have something to do with the other? For women, it appears there is a link, Mayo Clinic ...

Infections in rheumatoid arthritis patients—study finds way to pinpoint risk

September 5, 2012
Rheumatoid arthritis alone is painful and disabling, but it also puts patients at higher risk of death. The greater susceptibility to infections that accompanies the autoimmune disorder is one reason. Assessing the danger ...

Recommended for you

Osteoarthritis could be treated as two diseases, scientists reveal

January 10, 2018
Scientists at The University of Manchester have discovered that most people with osteoarthritis can be subdivided into two distinct disease groups, with implications for diagnosis and drug development.

US arthritis prevalence is much higher than current estimates

November 27, 2017
New research indicates that the prevalence of arthritis in the United States has been substantially underestimated, especially among adults

Maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels may help to prevent rheumatoid arthritis

November 20, 2017
Maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels may help to prevent the onset of inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered.

Old World monkeys could be key to a new, powerful rheumatoid arthritis therapy

November 16, 2017
In the quest for a new and more effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of USC looked to a primate that mostly roams the land in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It was ...

Study lists foods for fighting rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and progression

November 8, 2017
A list of food items with proven beneficial effects on the progression and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is provided in a new study published today in Frontiers in Nutrition. The authors suggest incorporating these foods ...

Prototype equipment can detect rheumatoid arthritis

September 28, 2017
According to a first clinical study published in the scientific journal Photoacoustics, the University of Twente and various European partners have designed a device that shows the difference between healthy fingers and arthritic ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.