It has been observed that people with rheumatoid arthritis have more heart problems than others. To substantiate this observation a study was conducted on 114,000 women. At the end of the study the researchers observed that women suffering form Rheumatoid arthritis were two times more at risk of having heart attack. Infact, the risk increased by three times if the disease had been present for more than 10 years. This observation was done taking into account other major risk factors for heart disease (such as high blood pressure and cholesterol).
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition of joints that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function of joints. It is widely believed that atherosclerosis is largely caused by inflammation. Hence, the inflammatory process occurring in rheumatoid arthritis may contribute to the development of heart disease, as it is also an important factor for the development of atherosclerosis (narrowing and blocking of blood vessels due to deposition of fat on the inner wall of the blood vessels). This can reduce the blood supply to the heart resulting in angina (chest pain) or heart attack.
The researchers suggest that anyone having rheumatoid arthritis should be considered at high risk of developing heart disease in future. Hence, early detection and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is imperative to prevent serious problems like heart attack later on. Patients should be encouraged to take their medication (such as non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, which decrease inflammation) regularly and bring about certain lifestyle and dietary modifications in order to arrest the disease in its early stages and thereby prevent any complications.