mayo-raMayo Clinic researchers report that rheumatoid arthritis patients (RA) and patients with other chronic inflammatory conditions face a higher risk of heart disease. A variety of studies presented at the American College of Rheumatology by the Mayo Clinic sought to provide insight into this potential link, emphasizing factors that may put some RA patients at risk.

A news release from the Mayo Clinic notes that one study suggested that RA patients whose disease is more severe are more likely to have heart issues. Eric Matteson, MD, study co-author, chair of rheumatology at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn, notes that the link particularly resonates soon after RA has set in.

Matteson rearticulates the study’s findings, stating, “One thing that we learned in particular in this study is that the high disease burden on the joints in the first year of disease is a very strong predictor of cardiovascular disease subsequently, and that seems to be mitigated as time goes on if the disease burden can be reduced too.”

Another study found a link between RA patients’ immune response to a cytomegalovirus and the development of myocardial disease. Matteson, co-author on the study as well, notes that if there is a relationship, it may pave the way to determining patients who are at higher risk for heart disease via, “an immune profile or biomarkers related to cytomegalovirus and its associated immune activation signaling.”

Early menopause in RA patients before the age of 45 was also spotlighted as key risk factor for heart disease. Matteson reportedly served as senior author on this study and highlights the complex relationship between RA, hormones, and heart disease. The researchers also found patients who have had multiple children, particularly seven or more, were at greater risk of cardiovascular disease than women who have menopause at a normal age or have fewer children.

Additional research from the Mayo Clinic noted a higher incidence of the heart rhythm disorder, prolonged QT interval, in RA patients. This was particularly true for patients who had a higher “sed rate” according to researchers. The release also states that multiple risks for heart disease were spotted in patients when they were diagnosed with giant cell arteritis. The researchers add that giant cell arteritis patients did not appear to be at higher risk of acute coronary syndrome.

Source: Mayo Clinic