Arthritis linked to ‘surprise’ heart attacks

(05/05/2015) People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have an increased risk of suffering a surprise heart attack, a new study has found.

According to the findings, as many as one in four RA patients could suffer a heart attack despite showing no symptoms.

RA is a chronic and often painful disease affecting the joints, causing them to become inflamed. Around 40,000 Irish people are affected and there is no cure.

Doctors in Mexico assessed 91 RA patients for ischaemia and infarction. Ischaemia refers to an insufficient supply of blood to an organ, often the heart, as a result of a blocked artery. Infarction refers to the death of tissue caused by a lack of oxygen. This is due to an obstruction of the tissue’s blood supply.

While some of the participants had traditional cardiovascular risk factors, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, none were showing any symptoms of heart disease.

However, the study found that around one in four – 24% – had signs of infarction and ischaemia.

“Our study shows that one-quarter of patients with RA and no symptoms of heart disease do have coronary heart disease, as evidenced by the presence of myocardial ischaemia or infarction in the study. This means they are at increased risk of cardiovascular death,’ commented cardiologist, Dr Adriana Puente.

She pointed out that the presence of ischaemia and infarction was independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking and diabetes.

“Our study suggests that one quarter of patients with RA and no symptoms of heart disease could have a heart attack without prior warning.

“The results highlight the importance of conducting diagnostic tests in patients with RA to see if they have cardiovascular disease, even if they have no symptoms and regardless of whether they have cardiovascular risk factors. This is essential to prevent and reduce cardiovascular mortality,” Dr Puente insisted.

Details of these findings were presented at ICNC, an international cardiology conference, which took place in Madrid, Spain.

For more information on RA, see our RA Clinic here


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