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Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart
Date:10/27/2008

Greater risk of heart attack, and more complications later, studies find

MONDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- People newly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis face twice the risk of a heart attack, and those who do suffer a heart attack tend to have more heart-related complications, new research says.

It seems that a condition called diastolic dysfunction, which causes the lower chambers of the heart to become stiff, is the culprit. Diastolic dysfunction impairs the ability of the ventricles to fill with blood and can lead to heart failure, the researchers said.

These are the conclusions of three reports presented at the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) annual scientific meeting, which runs from Oct. 24-29, in San Francisco.

"Rheumatoid arthritis patients not only have more heart attacks and heart failures, but they also have worse prognosis once they have a cardiovascular event," said Dr. Hilal Maradit Kremers, lead researcher on one of the studies and an epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

For the study, Kremers' team followed 38 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who had suffered a heart attack. Then they compared these patients with patients without rheumatoid arthritis who also had a heart attack.

The researchers found that the rheumatoid arthritis patients had a 45 percent greater risk of developing heart failure after a heart attack, compared with the general population, and a 75 percent greater risk of dying.

Kremers said patients with rheumatoid arthritis should take all the usual precautions to reduce their risk of a heart attack, including proper diet, exercise, no smoking and maintaining a healthy weight. "Try to avoid to get that heart attack," she said.

For the second study, Marie Gunnarsson, a doctoral student at the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues found that the risk
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