Arthritis

Updated 12 January 2016

Arthritis linked to heart attack risk

One year after a person is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis they are at a 60 percent increased risk of heart attack compared to people without the disease, a new study suggests.

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The study included almost 7,500 patients who were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a chronic autoimmune disease marked by painful inflammation of the lining of the joints, and more than 37,000 people without the disease. The study was conducted between 1995 and 2006; median follow-up was just over four years with a maximum follow-up of 12 years.

Read: What is rheumatoid arthritis?

According to the Swedish researchers, the risk of heart attack rose 60% one to four years after the rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, compared to people without the condition, and remained at the same level for five to 12 years after diagnosis.

Heart at risk with RA

The risk of any type of ischemic (blocked blood flow) heart disease increased 50% one to four years after a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis compared to those without the condition, and it remained at that level five to 12 years after diagnosis.

Read: Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

The study appears in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

"Our findings emphasise the importance of monitoring a patient's heart risk from the moment they are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, as the risk rises rapidly in the first few years," lead author Marie Holmqvist, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said.

She added that it "is also very clear that more research is needed to determine the mechanisms that link these two health conditions."

Read more:

Alcohol can 'lessen' arthritis 

Arthritis myths debunked 

Broccoli may prevent arthritis


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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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