Rheumatoid arthritis patients are 44 percent likelier than the general public to suffer from acute coronary syndrome — an umbrella term which includes heart attack — and their siblings are 23 percent likelier to suffer from ACS. That’s according to new research presented in Amsterdam on June 15 at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology.

“Our results provide evidence of shared susceptibility between rheumatoid arthritis and acute coronary syndrome,” said study author Helga Westerlind, of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, in a EULAR news release. “Although the nature of this needs to be further investigated, we believe that to bring down the cardiovascular risk in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, cardio-preventive measures must go beyond optimised RA disease control.”

Westerlind and colleagues examined 7,492 rheumatoid arthritis patients in a Swedish registry and studied them and 10,671 full siblings. For a control, the researchers matched the patients — on the basis of age and gender — with 35,120 subjects, and 47,137 full siblings.

The findings, according to the release, may suggest that there is a shared susceptibility to both diseases given the RA patients’ and their siblings’ similar genes and backgrounds.