Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) die at a younger age. Do you know what is the commonest cause of death in patients with RA?
The incidence of heart attacks is much higher in patients with RA. RA is a separate risk factor for heart disease just like high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.
It is important for people with RA to make lifestyle changes to reduce risk of heart attacks. Measures like quitting smoking, weight reduction, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure could help to reduce the risk in people with RA.
Arthritis sufferers are far more likely to die from heart attacks and strokes, a major study has recently revealed. Those with RA are 40 per cent at higher risk of irregular heartbeats (atrial fibrillation) and 30 per cent higher risk of strokes than the general public.
The risk of heart attack for RA patients is comparable to those with type 2 diabetes, according to the conclusions of two studies presented at the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism.
Patients with untreated or poorly controlled RA are at higher risk of getting heart attacks and early death. Early treatment with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (D-MARDs) aiming for complete control of disease activity within the first year of disease is required.
Appropriate treatment of RA can protect patients from developing heart problems and such therapy to be commenced early in the disease.
SELF MANAGEMENT FOR ARTHRITIS & HEART DISEASE
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with diet, exercise and weight reduction can improve your risk of heart disease.
Being overweight and obese are major risk factors for heart disease. If you are overweight, losing weight can reduce that risk. If you already have heart disease, losing weight can improve them.
Exercise is important for everyone. Research shows that 30 minutes of exercise five days a week can lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels and risk of heart attacks. People with arthritis often think physical activity will worsen their pain and arthritis. However, exercise actually improves pain and joint mobility in people with arthritis. Check with your doctor or physiotherapist about the right program for you.
While diet does not have an immediate effect on arthritis symptoms, a healthy, balanced diet is important to improve general health, minimize the risk of heart disease and control weight, which plays an important role in both diseases. A healthy diet should consist of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and less sugar and salt.
Take following steps
These changes can reduce your risk of heart disease and give you a greater sense of well-being.
- Quit smoking. Give up cigarettes, cigars and pipes permanently.
- Decrease salt intake.
- Avoid fried foods and processed foods containing trans fats.
- Be active often. Stick to a structured exercise program and choose more active options as you go through daily tasks.
Action from doctors:
- Annual tests for measuring heart attack risk is recommended for all RA patients.
- Lifestyle recommendations (on areas including diet, exercise, smoking cessation and stress management) should be given to all inflammatory rheumatic disease patients.
- Treatment with statins and/or anti-hypertensives should be considered.
- Early treatment of RA with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (D-MARDs) within the first year of disease is required.