Indian patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) face a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease

Indian patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) face a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those in Europe or the USA, says a new study.

Research at the University of Liverpool and the AB Rheumatology Clinic, Hyderabad, has shown that Indian people with RA are four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their European and American counterparts.

The study, which was conducted with 800 RA patients over four years, found that risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes were highly prevalent in the population and together with RA, increased the chances of developing a heart condition at an early age.

While the number of patients with RA is broadly similar to US and European countries, those at risk of developing cardiovascular disease in India are much higher.

Another finding was that women with the condition were at particular risk of developing heart disease. Women tend to be at a higher risk of RA compared to men and it is thought that this might be linked to hormonal changes. The condition improves in women post-pregnancy and during menopause.

“These findings are surprising and it is important that patients with rheumatoid arthritis in India and South Asia are aware of the risk factors that contribute to the disease.  Arthritis needs expert treatment for the duration of a person’s lifetime and specialist lifestyle support, such as maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular blood pressure tests,” said Professor Robert Moots, from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease.

According to Moots, there is no particular reason why Indian people should be at any higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than RA patients elsewhere, and could suggest genetic or environmental factors at play.

“Maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle and seeing a specialist regularly are certainly the first steps in preventing the number of cases of heart disease increasing in the country,” he said.

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Source: University of Liverpool; Photo: planetc1/Flickr/CC.

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