According to a new study men with risk factors for heart disease, have a greater risk of dying from heart problems if they have the arthritic condition gout.
Researchers studied over 9000 middle-aged men at higher-than- average risk of heart disease, and found that those with gout were more likely to die of a heart attack or other cardiovascular causes such as stroke over 17 years.
Lead researcher Dr. Eswar Krishnan, an assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine observed that the findings should give men with gout extra incentive to have a doctor assess their cardiac risks.
If they have modifiable risk factorslike high cholesterol, high blood pressure or obesity, it is highly important to get them under control through diet, exercise, weight loss and medication, said Dr Krishnan.
Dr. Krishnan and his colleagues report the findings in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The study involved 9,105 men between the ages of 41 and 63 who were at elevated risk of heart disease due to smoking, high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure.
Gout is a very painful form of arthritis that causes periodic swelling in the joints. The joints become red and hot and most often the big toe is affected though gout also strikes the feet, ankles, knees, hands and wrists.
Gout arises when uric acid crystals build up in the joints. The body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines -- substances found naturally in the body, but also in certain foods, like organ meats, anchovies, mushrooms and some seafood, such as herring and mackerel.
The current study shows that not everyone with high uric acid levels develops gout. Men who fell into this category in the study did not have higher odds of dying from heart disease.
It is not entirely clear why gout is linked to heart disease death.
Excess uric acid in the body can create oxidative stress, a state that damages body cells and contributes to diseases, including the buildup of artery-clogging plaques.
But Dr. Krishnan said that factors other than uric acid, such as widespread inflammation in the body, might be involved as well.