Dr. Hilal Maradit Kremers, a Mayo Clinic epidemiologist and lead author of the study, has revealed that the research team followed 38 heart attack patients who had RA to compare their mortality rates to those who had suffered a heart attack but did not have RA.
The researcher has also revealed that most patients were female, with a mean age of 76 years.
The team evaluated treatment of heart attacks and tracked patient outcomes (heart failure and death).
They observed that nine of the 38 RA patients had experienced heart failure prior to the heart attack, and of the remainder, a total of 18 RA patients developed heart failure following their heart attacks - making the risk of heart failure following a heart attack in patients with RA 45 percent higher than expected in the general population.
The risk of death was found to be 75 percent higher in heart attack patients with RA, and was particularly high among patients with rheumatoid arthritis who had a positive blood test for rheumatoid factor.
Based on their observations, the researchers came to the conclusion that patients with RA may suffer higher mortality, and be at higher risk of heart failure after a heart attack.
They, however, still do not know the reasons for such outcomes.
The researchers say that their findings emphasize the need for better strategies for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart attacks in such patients.
"Heart disease can remain silent in those with rheumatoid arthritis, but the risk is there soon after the onset of the disease. Regular cardiac checkups are important-as is lowering traditional cardiac risk factors, such as taking care of blood pressure and cholesterol and quitting smoking," says Dr. Kremers.
The findings of the study were presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in San Francisco, California.