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Rheumatoid arthritis patients have double the risk of heart failure

to develop heart disease through a mechanism that we don't yet understand. These observations may also suggest the potential presence of a common susceptibility for developing rheumatoid arthritis or cardiac heart failure, or a shared origination of these diseases."

The study's researchers also noted little difference between rates of heart failure in men and women with rheumatoid arthritis.

"This is quite different from what you'd find in the general population, where rates of heart failure are significantly higher among men than in women," says Dr. Nicola. "This suggests that whatever protects women from heart failure compared with men in the general population is not the same in patients with rheumatoid arthritis."

Heart failure is a serious disease, according to Dr. Nicola, causing a survival as short as most cancers. He indicates that in the general population, about one-half of heart failure patients die within three to five years.

At present, the study investigators cannot prescribe preventive measures for rheumatoid arthritis patients to take in order to avoid heart failure; they suggest that this is a subject for further study. The Mayo researchers also are conducting studies to find out which rheumatoid arthritis patients are at highest risk for heart failure and to identify whether arthritis medications are protective or contributors to heart failure.

In the meantime, Dr. Nicola says, "Patients with rheumatoid arthritis should be vigilant regarding reducing their traditional cardiac risk factors. Their physicians should have a high degree of suspicion of heart failure -- for example, they should be suspicious when rheumatoid arthritis patients relate that they are more tired than normal."


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Contact: Lisa Lucier
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
3-Feb-2005


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