Researchers at Mayo Clinic have developed a simple approach to predict which rheumatoid arthritis patients are at an increased of developing heart disease within ten years of their initial diagnosis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, autoimmune disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in multiple joints. It is a systemic disease and also may affect other organs of the body including the lungs, heart and kidneys.
It is already known that people with rheumatoid arthritis have a higher risk for developing heart disease than the general population. However till now it has not been easy to identify which patients are at increased risk. As a part of their research the boffins estimated the 10-year absolute risk of cardiovascular disease in a group of 553 patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and compared them with 574 patients of the same age and gender who did not have rheumatoid arthritis.
The researchers collected detailed information about all study subjects' cardiac events and their traditional cardiovascular risk factors: diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index and smoking.
Using absolute risk analysis methods, researchers discovered that 85 percent of those 60 to 69 year olds who were newly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis patients had a 1 in 5 chance of developing a serious cardiovascular event, compared to only 40 percent of patients who did not have rheumatoid arthritis. In each age group, cardiovascular risk in rheumatoid arthritis patients was similar to that of nonrheumatoid arthritis subjects who were 5-10 years older.
"Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are dealing with significant pain and stress, therefore cardiovascular disease prevention may be delayed," says Hilal Maradit Kremers, M.D., lead study investigator and research associate in the Mayo Clinic Department of Health Sciences Research.
"Our findings indicate that evaluation of cardiovascular risk based on risk factor profiles of individual patients can help physicians identify high risk rheumatoid arthritis patients and assist with decisions concerning cardiovascular disease prevention." Sherine Gabriel, M.D., the study's senior author and Mayo Clinic rheumatologist and epidemiologist added: "These results emphasize the importance of performing a comprehensive cardiovascular risk assessment for all newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients."
The findings of this Mayo Clinic research study were presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston.