You may want to rethink that fatty burger for dinner. Yet another study points to higher risks of heart failure for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients — twice as likely, in fact, than the general population.

In addition, heart failure’s “lethality is markedly greater, too” in RA patients, according to Dr. Sherine Gabriel of the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn.).

Studied as a part of the Rochester Epidemiology Project, the results were shared last month at a symposium sponsored by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).

One study compared 575 Rochester RA patients with no heart failure history with 583 non-RA patients (who didn’t have RA). As the news story reports, “The relative risk of new-onset [heart failure] during the subsequent 30 years was 1.9-fold greater in the RA group after adjustment … for age, gender, standard cardiovascular risk factors, and the presence of … heart disease.” For those patients with rheumatoid factor-positive RA, risk climbed to 2.6 times normal risk.

Another study showed that “mortality was strikingly higher following the diagnosis of [heart failure]” in RA patients (comparing 103 RA patients with 852 non-RA patients — all post-heart failure diagnosis).

In fact, 15.5 percent of the RA patients died within the first 30 days following diagnosis, while only 6.6 percent of the non-RA patients did. (Six month death rates were 25.2 percent for RA patients, 14 percent for those without.)

Risk is based on part by the type of arthritis you have, as well — RA patients had double the rates of heart failure as those with osteoarthritis, according to a report from the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases.

Why the increased risk?

“The most likely explanation for the increased risk of [heart failure] in RA is a persistent inflammatory state,” reports.

Dr. Gabriel explained that monitoring patients’ erythrocyte sedimentation rates and other markers “might help identify RA patients at increased near-term risk of developing [heart failure] … and open the door to new preventive approaches.”

The Rochester Epidemiology Project is, “an ongoing landmark, decades-long, primarily National Institutes of Health-funded longitudinal project drawing upon the complete inpatient and outpatient medical records of the entire populace of Olmsted County, Minn.”

To read the news article in full, click on the link below:

Article References
Rheumatoid Arthritis doubles patients’ heart failure risk, site accessed on 04/06/08