Acupuncture may reduce the risk of stroke linked to rheumatoid arthritis

acupuncture, arthritis, heart disease, stroke, inflammation, cytokines, arthritis digestA course of acupuncture could curb the heightened risk of stroke associated with rheumatoid arthritis, reveals a large study published in BMJ Open.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in people with rheumatoid arthritis. And they are more likely to have a stroke than the general population, note the researchers.

Acupuncture is already used to control pain and dampen down inflammation, and the researchers (who analysed data from over 23,000 people) wanted to find out if it might also lower the risk of ischaemic stroke – caused by a blood clot in the brain – that is associated with systemic inflammation.

They found that people with rheumatoid arthritis who had acupuncture were less likely to have a stroke. And this was independent of age, sex, medication use and co-existing conditions.

“Inflammation is a consistent and independent predictor of cardiovascular disease in [rheumatoid arthritis],” so acupuncture may lower pro-inflammatory proteins, thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, including ischaemic stroke, the researchers suggest.

“If acupuncture relieves morning stiffness and joint pain, patients might also benefit from increasing daily activities, which might also reduce the risk of stroke.”

Click here to read the original research.

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