Doctors: Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Heart Disease Risk

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People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis are mostly focused on getting the disease under control and easing the joint pain.

But doctors say people with RA are also at risk for other health problems.

Elizabeth O’Byrne is getting her gardening done, but it isn’t easy.

For the past 19 years she’s suffered from rheumatoid arthritis.

“Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease and we believe that the systemic inflammation takes a toll on the heart and arteries,” said Dr. John Davis, a rheumatologist at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

Although the exact connection is not known, doctors suspect one link may be that the protein that causes inflammation in the joints may also cause inflammation in the arteries.

Another may be certain steroids patients take may cause hardening of the arteries or diabetes.

“Initiating blood pressure control, lifestyle modification, certainly smoking cessation is very important, control of cholesterol, and another intervention is to minimize the risk of having an actual cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke,” said Dr. Davis.

When O’Byrne learned she had warning signs of heart disease, she started exercising and becoming more active.

“I’m starting to eat more fruit and vegetables, you know, so I am trying to make lifestyle changes,” she said.

That is something doctors say is crucial for every RA patient.

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