Heart disease could increase risk of rheumatoid arthritis

People with heart disease may have a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, says research published in Arthritis Research & Therapy.

A total of 786 people with rheumatoid arthritis were assessed (using questionnaires, clinical examinations and blood samples), along with 3,586 people with osteoarthritis and 33,567 people without either condition.

Results suggest that a history of cardiovascular disease was associated with a higher likelihood of rheumatoid arthritis, as was age, smoking and body mass index. Women were more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis.

There was no link between cardiovascular disease and risk of osteoarthritis.

“People with rheumatoid arthritis have a slightly greater chance of having a heart attack or stroke, which seems to be an effect of the inflammation, so it is not overly surprising that those people with heart disease due to high levels of inflammation should also be prone to developing rheumatoid arthritis,” says a spokesman from Arthritis Research UK. “Other factors such as high cholesterol and smoking increase the risk too.”