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More Evidence Rheumatoid Arthritis Increases Cardiac Risks

Posted Nov 07 2008 12:07pm

On Wednesday’s post I reported on a study that indicated that people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were more likely to have cardiac problems that people without RA. In that study the researchers believed the increased cardiac risk was related to a condition known as diastolic dysfunction. Diastolic dysfunction is a condition where the there is stiffening in the heart which leads to problems with proper circulation of blood. Blood can actually spill backwards through the heart and into the lungs.

In a third study reported on at last week’s American College of Rheumatology’s (ACR) annual meeting in San Francisco, a team led Dr. Kimberly Liang, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, found additional evidence that there is a link between RA and diastolic dysfunction.

“Diastolic dysfunction occurred in 38.9 percent, compared to 28.8 percent in the non-rheumatoid arthritis group. 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.” - Dr. Kimberly Liang

According to Dr. Liang, increased usage of electrocardiography in rheumatoid arthritis patients may improve detection of heart problems before there are clinical signs.

The chief science officer for the Arthritis Foundation, Dr. John Hardin, says that these studies highlight the impacts that RA can have 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.”

Dr. Hardin also pointed out that there are some arthritis drugs that can increase the risk of heart failure in RA patients with already damaged hearts.

“For example, Enbrel (etanercept) can, in fact, in some people, potentiate heart failure, which can be a complication of myocardial infarction. To prevent a heart attack, patients with rheumatoid arthritis need to pay particular attention to cholesterol, blood pressure and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, the things you do to protect yourself against cardiovascular disease become doubly important.” - Dr. John Hardin.


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