Rheumatoid arthritis patients have an increased risk of heart disease and are at higher risk for early death compared to the general population. Inflammation is the chief suspect linking the two conditions. According to Mayo Clinic researchers, though, many cardiovascular risk assessment tools fail to factor it in.
According to a study published online April 23, 2012 in the American Journal of Cardiology, researchers evaluated the accuracy of two commonly used tools that assess heart disease risk -- the Framingham and Reynolds risk scores. They found that the two tools significantly underrated heart disease risk in women and men with rheumatoid arthritis, especially in older patients and in those who were postive for rheumatoid factor. The study included 525 rheumatoid arthritis patients who were over age 30 and who were diagnosed between 1988 and 2007. The patients had no previous cardiovascular history. Researchers found that the risk of heart disease was actually twice as high for women and 65% higher in men than what the Framingham risk score predicted. Patients older than 75 were found to have triple the risk predicted with Framingham. Reynolds risk scores also failed in the study.
While researchers concluded that better heart risk assessment is needed for rheumatoid arthritis patients, they are also trying to better understand the role of inflammation and determine which treatments most effectively cut the risk.
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- Inflammation Elevates Risk of Cardiac Death in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients
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