Risk of heart attack has improved over time in rheumatoid arthritis patients


March 9, 2021 (Vancouver) – New Arthritis Research Canada study finds people who were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in more recent years have a lower chance of having heart attacks in the first 10 years of their disease, than patients who were diagnosed with RA a longer time ago. The improvement over time in the risk of heart attacks was similar to that seen in the general population.

“These findings suggest that, with advances in medications available for rheumatoid arthritis, and treatment recommendations aimed at early treatment and eradication of inflammation, there has been an improvement in the risk of heart attacks, but the risk remains higher in rheumatoid arthritis patients than in people of similar age and sex from the general population,” said Kiana Yazdani, a trainee at Arthritis Research Canada who completed her Master’s thesis on this topic.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis and is characterized by the immune system attacking healthy cells. It is a serious and life-threatening disease. Prior studies found that rheumatoid arthritis is associated with a 68 per cent increase in risk of heart attack and a 59 per cent increase in risk of heart attack-related death.

“There is a need for tailoring heart attack risk management strategies specifically at rheumatoid arthritis patients, in addition to ensuring good control of inflammation, to reduce the excess risk,” Yazdani added.

Yazdani previously studied the risk of stroke in rheumatoid arthritis patients and also found an improvement in the 10-year risk of stroke in people diagnosed with RA in more recent years. In that study, the decline in 10-year risk of stroke was greater in people with RA than in the general population for people diagnosed with RA after 1999. This means the excess risk of strokes in RA compared to the general population is diminishing.

These results suggest that by better controlling inflammation with current RA treatment strategies, we not only prevent damage to the joints, but we also reduce the risk of systemic complications of inflammation, such as strokes and heart attacks.

To read the full research paper on heart attack risk, please click here.

To read the full research paper on stroke risk, please click here.


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Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research institution in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific director, Dr. Diane Lacaille is leading a team of over 100 researchers, trainees and staff whose world recognized research is creating a future where people living with arthritis are empowered to triumph over pain and disability. Arthritis Research Canada is conducting research across Canada in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec and is affiliated with five major universities: University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, Université Laval, and McGill University. Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at arthritis prevention, early diagnosis, new and better treatment, and improved quality of life.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Heather Caulder
Marketing and Communications Officer
604-207-4010 or hcaulder@arthritisresearch.ca

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