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Rheumatoid Arthritis Linked to Increased Risk of A-Fib, Stroke

Risk of a-fib ~40 percent higher, risk of stroke ~30 percent higher than general population

FRIDAY, March 9 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with rheumatoid arthritis have a significantly increased risk of atrial fibrillation and stroke, according to a study published online March 8 in BMJ.

Noting that patients with rheumatoid arthritis are already known to have a higher risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular death, Jesper Lindhardsen, M.D., from Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte, and colleagues analyzed data on atrial fibrillation and stroke from 4,182,335 participants from the entire Danish population over 15 years old, without a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, atrial fibrillation, or stroke before 1997.

After a median follow-up of 4.8 years, the researchers found that 18,247 people had rheumatoid arthritis. Atrial fibrillation was diagnosed in 156,484 people, including 774 with rheumatoid arthritis. Of the 165,343 people who had a stroke, 718 had rheumatoid arthritis. Compared with the general population, patients with rheumatoid arthritis had an adjusted incidence rate ratio of 1.41 for atrial fibrillation and 1.32 for stroke.

"Rheumatoid arthritis was associated with an increased incidence of atrial fibrillation and stroke," Lindhardsen and colleagues conclude. "The novel finding of increased risk of atrial fibrillation in rheumatoid arthritis suggests that this arrhythmia is relevant in cardiovascular risk assessment of these patients."

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