According to a new study, people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) appear to age faster that those who do not have the disease. This may help explain why RA patients have shorter life expectancies.
Researchers and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota reviewed the medical records of 755 rheumatoid arthritis patients who were diagnosed between 1955 and 2008.
The researchers analyzed data from a twelve and a half year period in which 315 patients died. They tracked the patient’s age and cause of death and compared these to the expected survival data for people with similar age and gender statistics without RA.
What the researchers found was that rheumatoid arthritis patients were physically two years older at the time their diagnosis and that they aged faster after that time. The researchers believe that RA patients age 11.4 years for every 10 chronological years.
The researchers do not yet have an explanation for the increase in mortality. But they have found that cells affected by rheumatoid arthritis show signs of “accelerated aging” which is damage at the molecular level.
“This research goes together with the basic science where they say there are individual cells aging faster, so it’s another piece in the puzzle to help us learn how RA works and what causes it,” says Cynthia S. Crowson, a statistician and a member of the research team.
There are additional studies planned to determine if more recent advances in treatment has improved the mortality rates of RA patients.