Although rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients could be twice as likely as the average person to develop heart disease, a recent study suggests that deaths from heart disease among RA patients may be declining.

The Mayo Clinic study, presented recently during the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting, suggests that this could be the result of efforts to prevent heart problems and diagnose and treat heart disease early among RA patients, per a media release from Mayo Clinic.

In the study, researchers looked at heart disease deaths within 10 years of RA diagnosis among two groups of people: 315 patients diagnosed with RA from 2000 to 2007, and 498 patients diagnosed with RA in the 1980s and 1990s. They also looked at heart disease deaths among 813 people without RA. Roughly two-thirds of patients studied were women, and the average age was 60.

They found a significantly lower rate of deaths from heart disease in the more recently diagnosed RA patients than in those diagnosed earlier: 2.8% and 7.9%, respectively, the release explains.

The study also analyzed deaths among RA patients from coronary artery disease and found those too declined in the 10 years after the patients studied were diagnosed with RA. Among the 2000-‘07 diagnosis group, 1.2% died of coronary artery disease, paralleling the general population, compared with 4.7% of those diagnosed with RA in the 1990s, the release continues.

“More research is needed to confirm why heart disease deaths among rheumatoid arthritis patients have declined, but potential factors include earlier and more vigilant screening for heart problems, improved treatment for heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and in general, more attention to heart health in patients with rheumatoid arthritis,” says lead author Elena Myasoedova, MD, PhD, a rheumatologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, in the release.

[Source(s): Mayo Clinic, Science Daily]