By Corie Richter Researchers have found that patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis experience the same elevated risk of cardiac damage as diabetics. However, one rheumatoid arthritis drug may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) experience similar risk of cardiac damage as do diabetics.
Injuries to blood vessels occur in the heart tissue with inflammation and narrowing; often causing myocardial infarctions more commonly known as “heart attacks,” as well as strokes. In the March 6, 2008 Arthritis Research & Therapy researchers in Spain found a popular drug used to treat RA also has a beneficial side effect on the heart. Methotrexates, which are sold as Rheumatrex Dose Pack and Trexall, reduce the rate of heart attack by 18 percent and strokes by 11 percent in RA patients.
There were 4,363 individuals from 15 countries participating. A little more than three-fourths were women and more than 90 percent were Caucasian. The significance of these numbers is yet to be determined. Some racial groups have a higher genetic propensity to disease than others. However, regardless of genetic disposition, there were three groups at considerable risk for cardiovascular complications aside from RA: 43 percent of the subjects smoked or had done so in their lifetime; 73 percent were physically inactive; and 18 percent were listed as obese.
This is extremely good news considering the bad publicity garnered by some arthritis medications which have been required to produce stronger warning labels, if not pulled from the market due to adverse cardiac impact and reported deaths. Since the rash of recalls, many patients and physicians have been wary of the remaining treatments. As always, check with your doctor regarding any medication you take and especially the interaction of any over-the-counter products you use. This is especially important to patients who supplement their usual prescriptions with Aleve, Ibuprofen, aspirin, or Tylenol.
Corie Richter is a nurse and physician''s assistant who started her career as a health educator. The survivor of a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and partially successful quadruple bypass surgery, she did not let her health challenges hamper her. Neither the limitations of spinal surgery nor of diabetes have deterred her from a mission of service. She now encourages others through writing and speaking engagements to master their disabilities through education and a proactive attitude.