Dr. John Hardin, chief science officer at the Arthritis Foundation, said these new studies highlight the toll that rheumatoid arthritis can take on the cardiovascular system.
"These studies are consistent with the idea that systemic inflammation promotes cardiovascular disease," Hardin said. "Rheumatoid arthritis creates a general state of inflammation within the body."
Hardin also noted that some arthritis drugs can increase the risk of heart problems in rheumatoid arthritis patients who already have damaged hearts. "For example, Enbrel (etanercept) can, in fact, in some people, potentiate heart failure, which can be a complication of myocardial infarction," he said.
To prevent a heart attack, patients with rheumatoid arthritis need to pay particular attention to cholesterol, blood pressure and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, Hardin said. "If you have rheumatoid arthritis, the things you do to protect yourself against cardiovascular disease become doubly important," he said.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that results in pain, stiffness, swelling, and limitation in the motion and function of multiple joints. The disease also can cause inflammation in other organs. An estimated 1.3 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
To learn more about rheumatoid arthritis, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Hilal Maradit Kremers, M.D., associate professor of epidemiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Kimberly Liang, M.D., assistant prof
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