WEDNESDAY, Aug. 17, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at increased risk of death from heart disease and other cardiovascular events due to RA-related inflammation and other risk factors, a new study indicates.
It also found that treating RA inflammation with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and the risk factors for heart disease reduced the risk.
The study included more than 400 patients who were followed for five years after being diagnosed with RA. Researchers monitored the patients' disease progression, treatment programs and traditional risk factors for heart disease, including weight, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.
After five years, 97 percent of the patients had been treated with DMARDs, which reduced inflammation. Many of the patients had also made lifestyle changes that reduced their cardiovascular disease risk.
The patient data showed that cardiovascular events such as heart disease, stroke or deep vein thrombosis could be predicted by the intensity of arthritis and by diabetes, high blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
The researchers also found that treatment with DMARDs decreased the risk, but treatment with cox 2 inhibitors appeared to increase the risk.
The study was published Aug. 15 in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy.
"Inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis increases patients risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular events. However, it is possible to reduce this risk in a two-pronged attack by treating both the inflammation and traditional risk factors for heart disease," said Dr. Wallberg-Jonsson from University Hospital, Umea, in Sweden.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about rheumatoid arthritis.