Heart-attack risk increases rapidly after rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed

Dec 06, 2010

The risk of having a heart attack is 60 per cent higher just a year after a patient has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, according to research published in the December issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine.

Swedish researchers followed 7,469 patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) between 1995 and 2006, together with 37,024 matched controls without RA to determine the risk of ischaemic , with particular reference to (heart attack). The maximum follow-up was 12 years and the median was just over four years.

"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" says lead author Marie Holmqvist from the Karolinska Institutet.

Key findings of the study included:

  • Average age at diagnosis was just under 57 years and 71 per cent of the patients with RA were women. The median time from the appearance of RA symptoms to diagnosis was 6.2 months.
  • 67 per cent of the patients had a positive rheumatoid factor (RF), an immunological marker found in a number of acute and . The difference in increased heart attack risk between the RF positive and negative subgroups was not statistically significant – 70 per cent higher in RF positive patients and 60 per cent higher in RF negative patients.
  • Having RA increased the risk of any ischaemic heart disease by 50 per cent one to four years after diagnosis, staying at that level in years five to 12. The risk increased during the first year after diagnosis, but did not reach statistical significance for 12 months.
  • The risk of an acute heart attack rose by 60 per cent one to four years after diagnosis, remaining at the same level in years five to 12. Again, the level increased in year one, but was not statistically significant for the first 12 months.
    "Our study confirms the increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks that patients with RA face" says Marie Holmqvist. "However it also adds three important observations to previous research."

    These are:

  • The increased heart attack risk was apparent very soon after RA diagnosis, despite the fact that the median duration of symptoms before diagnosis was just over six months.
  • Although RA has been caught earlier and treated more aggressively in the last decade, increased heart attack risks were still seen in patients diagnosed in the last five to ten years.
  • Both rheumatoid factor positive and rheumatoid factor negative were associated with an increased risk.
"Our research underlines the importance of clinicians monitoring patients diagnosed with for an increased risk of heart problems, in particular heart attacks" concludes Marie Holmqvist. "It is also very clear that more research is needed to determine the mechanisms that link these two health conditions."

Explore further: Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

More information: Rapid increase in myocardial infarction following diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis amongst patients diagnosed between 1995 and 2006. Journal of Internal Medicine. 268, pp578-585. (December 2010). DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2796.2010.02260.x

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Risk of heart attack in patients

Jun 18, 2010

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients face a two-fold increased risk of suffering a Myocardial Infarction (MI, heart attack) versus the general population, which is comparable to the increased risk of MI seen in diabetes patients, ...

Recommended for you

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

4 hours ago

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

US orders farms to report pig virus infections

Apr 18, 2014

The U.S. government is starting a new program to help monitor and possibly control the spread of a virus that has killed millions of pigs since showing up in the country last year.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi

Apr 18, 2014

A foreigner has died after she contracted MERS in the Saudi capital, the health ministry said on announced Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 73.

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

Apr 18, 2014

Vietnam is scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of measles that has killed more than 100 people, mostly young children, and infected thousands more this year, the government said Friday.

New clues on tissue scarring in scleroderma

Apr 18, 2014

A discovery by Northwestern Medicine scientists could lead to potential new treatments for breaking the cycle of tissue scarring in people with scleroderma.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.