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

of heart attack among newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients doubled during the first 10 years after diagnosis.

The researchers collected data on 7,954 newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients and compared that information with 38,913 people from the general Swedish population.

Over 10 years of follow-up, the researchers found that patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis had almost double the risk of a heart attack and dying from a heart attack. The increased risk grew over time, starting five years after diagnosis, the study found.

"This study shows that having rheumatoid arthritis confers an increased risk of having a myocardial infarction [heart attack], and that this risk increase is manifest already early in RA disease progress," Gunnarsson said in an ACR news release.

"The fact that there is no increased risk prior to rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis suggests that there is something in the rheumatoid arthritis disease itself, such as inflammatory processes that lead to this increased risk. Measures to bring down inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis might, thus, be beneficial also from a cardiovascular prevention point of view in this population," she said.

In the last report, a research team led by Dr. Kimberly Liang, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, found that diastolic dysfunction was more common in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, which could help explain the increased risk for heart problems in these people.

"Diastolic dysfunction occurred in 38.9 percent, compared to 28.8 percent in the non-rheumatoid arthritis group," Liang said. "We also found that patients in the rheumatoid arthritis group had higher average pulmonary arterial pressure, which is high blood pressure in the lungs and the right side of the heart. This is consistent with the impaired filling of the heart seen in diastolic dysfunction."

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