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Rheumatoid Arthritis a risk factor for Heart Attack and Stroke

Posted Oct 04 2009 11:14pm
My Aunt died suddenly few years ago due to a massive Heart Attack[Myocardial Infarction]. She was suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis[RA] for a long time.Her Arthritis was fairly under control and was active in life when she was suddenly taken away by death. Her sudden death was a shock to me.It made me research the literature to find out any connection between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Heart Attack.The findings were very revealing.
Several studies have found out that those who are suffering from RA has double the risk for Cardiovascular disease [which includes heart attack and stroke] than General Population.The risk is almost same as those who have Type2 Diabetes.
As more more and more such studies were published an expert committee was appointed by European League against Rheumatism[EULAR], the professional body of Rheumatologists in Europe.Now the Task Force has come out with its recommendations which can be read here. This was published at EULAR 2008 the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Paris, France in June 2008.

The EULAR Task Force’s multidisciplinary steering committee comprised 21 members, including rheumatologists, cardiologists, internists and epidemiologists, from across nine European countries.
This recommendations are applicable not only to RA patients but also to Ankylosing Spondylitis[AS] and Psoriatic Arthritis[PsA] patients.
What does this recommendations mean for RA,AS,PsA patients?
Persons suffering from RA,AS orPsA have very high risk of getting a Heart Attack or Stroke when compared to those who do not have RA,AS or PsA.
Any one having the above rheumatological diseases should undergo active screening for other Cardiovascular risk factors like Diabetes,High Blood Pressure,High Cholestrol etc.If any such risk factors are present they should be actively managed by lifestyle modification including diet and exercise,medicines and frequent monitoring. They should refrain from using tobacco.They should also undergo frequent screening for Coronary Artery disease by Electrocardiography[ECG/EKG],Exercise Stress Test[Treadmill Test] and or Angiography which ever is applicable in a particular patient.
Though the task force have not specified a target value,it can be inferred that the target values for Blood Pressure, HDL and LDL Cholesterol should be similar to the target for Type 2 Diabetes patients.
So RA patients should keep their
Blood Pressure below 130/80
LDL Cholesterol below 100mg/dL
HDL Cholesterol above 40mg/dL

It is hoped that the Task Force recommendations will directly contribute to improved clinical practice and better the life of Rheumatoid Arthritis patients.
I wish such recommendations were there 5 years ago.If so my Aunt might have been still alive.
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