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Arthritis sufferers at greater risk of heart attacks

Wednesday 25th April 2018
The inflammation caused by immune-related forms of arthritis could be causing problems with patients hearts. Image: seb_ra via iStock
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People who have certain forms of arthritis may be more likely to suffer heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues, it has been discovered.
A team led by Roxanne Cooksey at Swansea University carried out the study after prior research found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis have higher rates of cardiovascular disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body's immune system targets affected joints, leading to swelling and pain. It is an autoimmune condition that affects more than 400,000 people in the UK.
For this study, the researchers wanted to examine the risks of cardiovascular disease that come with rheumatoid arthritis, but also psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis.
Psoriatic arthritis affects as many as 30 per cent of people with the skin condition psoriasis and is also an immune system-related illness that affects the joints and can cause pain and stiffness.
The team looked at the GP, hospital and death records for heart attacks and strokes of 8,650 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, 2,128 people with psoriatic arthritis and 24,630 people with psoriasis, then compared them with more than 1.1 million records of individuals without such conditions.
It was found that cardiovascular risk factors were higher for people with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis than they were without, even when risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure were taken into account.
"More medical research will need to be done to work out what the best cause of action is for those with inflammatory arthritis. In the meantime, people with inflammatory arthritis and psoriasis should be closely monitored and given extra support to help prevent heart attack and strokes," said Ms Cooksey.
It may be that patients with immune-related forms of arthritis require anti-inflammatory treatments as a preventative measure against heart attacks in the future.
Currently in the UK, someone has a heart attack every seven minutes and a stroke every 12 minutes.
Written by Mathew Horton

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