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Rheumatoid arthritis patients have double the risk of heart failure

ROCHESTER, MINN. -- Mayo Clinic researchers have found that rheumatoid arthritis patients have twice the risk of heart failure, or a weakening of the heart's ability to pump blood, as those without rheumatoid arthritis, according to a new study to be published in the February edition of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, http://www.rheumatology.org. About one-third of the rheumatoid arthritis patients studied developed heart failure over 30 years of the disease.

"We decided to undertake this study because we knew that patients with rheumatoid arthritis die earlier than the general population, and mostly from heart disease," says Paulo Nicola, M.D., Mayo Clinic research fellow in the Department of Health Sciences Research and study author. "We thought heart failure could be a reason for early mortality in these patients. However, we were not expecting that the incidence of heart failure would be so high."

The study found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis are at an increased risk for heart failure soon after the onset of arthritis and that this elevated risk follows them throughout the course of the arthritis, a chronic disease. The researchers also found that the factors putting them at this increased risk for heart failure seem to be unrelated to heart attacks and to the traditional cardiovascular risk factors: diabetes; alcohol abuse; and elevated cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass index. The source of the increased risk remains a mystery, however.

"We expected heart attacks and traditional cardiac risk factors to contribute to the increased risk of heart failure in rheumatoid arthritis patients, but they did not," says Dr. Nicola. "This suggests another mechanism is at work. We suspect that it has something to do with the underlying inflammation that occurs in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Another possibility is that patients with rheumatoid arthritis are particularly vulnerable
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Contact: Lisa Lucier
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
3-Feb-2005


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