Research findings reported in the February 2003 issue of Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases point to an association between osteoarthritis in a single finger joint in men and the likelihood they will die from cardiovascular disease. The news for women was not as drastic but there was still a modest increase in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease for women with arthritis in either one finger or in symmetrical joints.
Between 1978 to 1980, a representative population sample of 8,000 Finns, age 30 or older, were asked to participate in a comprehensive health exam by Dr. Mikko Haara and his research team at the University of Kuopio, Finland. The team took hand x-rays of 3,595 study participants. By the end of 1994, 897 of the 3,595 participants had died. The researchers analyzed the causes of death and sought to determine if there was any involvement with arthritis. Through their analysis the researchers found:
- Men with symmetrical arthritis of the fingers were not at increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
- Men with arthritis in a single finger joint were 42% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
- Women had 25% higher risk of cardiovascular death if there were symmetrical joints with arthritis and 26% if only a single finger joint was affected by arthritis.
Though osteoarthritis in any finger joint significantly predicted cardiovascular death in men it was not completely understood why this was the case. The research analysis revealed though that 2,139 of the 3,595 participants had body mass indexes over 25, indicative of being overweight. There is a need for more research and more comparative studies so that replication of the findings can be demonstrated. It can be concluded that maintaining an ideal weight, exercising, and a healthy diet lowers the risk of both osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease.
Prior studies have linked the importance of weight control to managing arthritis of the knee. The new results draw a connection to arthritic, stiff fingers as well.
Source: Stiff Fingers Are Windows Into Heart Disease, Kathleen Doheny, HealthScout, 1/17/03