Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Mayo Clinic researchers have created a simple approach for the prediction of heart disease in rheumatoid arthritis patients within ten years of their initial diagnosis.

Mayo researchers had already identified a connection between rheumatoid arthritis patients and increased risk for heart disease. The problem was to detect and prevent heart disease in these patients who showed no symptoms of it.

"Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are dealing with pain and stress, therefore cardiovascular disease prevention may be delayed," says Hilal Maradit Kremers, M.D., lead study investigator and research associate in the Mayo Clinic Department of Health Sciences Research. "Our findings indicate that evaluation of cardiovascular risk based on risk factor profiles of individual patients can help physicians identify high risk rheumatoid arthritis patients and assist with decisions concerning cardiovascular prevention."

The 10 year absolute risk of cardiovascular disease in 553 patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis was estimated by Mayo Clinic researchers and compared with 574 patients of the same age and gender who did not have rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers also collected subjects' other risk factors—diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index and smoking.

It was discovered that 85 percent of 60 to 69 year olds newly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis had a 1 in 5 chance of developing a serious cardiovascular condition, compared with 40 percent who did not have rheumatoid arthritis.

In each age group, cardiovascular risk to rheumatoid arthritis patients was similar to that of non rheumatoid arthritis subjects aged 7 to 10 years older. "These results emphasize the importance of performing a comprehensive cardiovascular risk assessment for all newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients," says Sherine Gabriel, M.D., the study's senior author and Mayo Clinic rheumatologist and epidemiologist.

Members of the Mayo Clinic study team include: Hilal Maradit-Kremers, M.D., Cynthia Crowson, Terry Therneau, Ph.D; Veronique Roger, M.D., and Sherine Gabriel, M.D. Their work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health; in particular, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

The findings were presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston, November 6-11, 2007.
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