ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Supplement Hampers Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Acupuncture May Not Help Hot Flashes
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Safe Toys for Dogs
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Heart Failure Raises Risk of Fractures
A Winning Strategy to Beat Spring Sporting Injuries
Returning to the Road Tricky After Injury
CANCER
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Get to Know the Pap Test
Green Tea Compound Slowed Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
CAREGIVING
Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome
Hospital Volume Imperfect Gauge of Cancer Surgery Outcomes
Child's Food Allergies Take Toll on Family Plans
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
Night Shift Work Hard on the Heart
Secondhand Smoke Quickly Affects Blood Vessels
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
Dental Implants Need More Work Than Root Canals
DIABETES
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Laughter May Lower Heart Attack Risk in Diabetics
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Iced Teas Pose High Risk of Kidney Stones
Blueberry Drink Protects Mice From Obesity, Diabetes
Functional Foods Uncovered
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Greenhouse Gases Hazardous to Your Health
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
EYE CARE, VISION
Thyroid Problems Boost Glaucoma Risk
FDA Goes After Unapproved Eye Washes, Skin Ointments
Sports Eye Injuries Leading Cause of Blindness in Youths
FITNESS
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
Study Shows Exercise Shields Against Osteoporosis
Any Exercise Good After a Heart Attack
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Afternoon Nap Might Make You Smarter
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Cherry-Enriched Diet Cut Heart Risks in Rats
Fondness for Fish Keeps Japanese Hearts Healthy
Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Time to Remind Teens About Sun Protection
Stomach Germ May Protect Against Asthma
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
MEN'S HEALTH
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
MENTAL HEALTH
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
SENIORS
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Martial Arts Training May Save Seniors' Hips
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Mom and Baby Alike May Benefit From Exercise
Green Tea May Help Treat Uterine Fibroids
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Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart

MONDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- People newly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis face twice the risk of a heart attack, and those who do suffer a heart attack tend to have more heart-related complications, new research says.

It seems that a condition called diastolic dysfunction, which causes the lower chambers of the heart to become stiff, is the culprit. Diastolic dysfunction impairs the ability of the ventricles to fill with blood and can lead to heart failure, the researchers said.

These are the conclusions of three reports presented at the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) annual scientific meeting, which runs from Oct. 24-29, in San Francisco.

"Rheumatoid arthritis patients not only have more heart attacks and heart failures, but they also have worse prognosis once they have a cardiovascular event," said Dr. Hilal Maradit Kremers, lead researcher on one of the studies and an epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

For the study, Kremers' team followed 38 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who had suffered a heart attack. Then they compared these patients with patients without rheumatoid arthritis who also had a heart attack.

The researchers found that the rheumatoid arthritis patients had a 45 percent greater risk of developing heart failure after a heart attack, compared with the general population, and a 75 percent greater risk of dying.

Kremers said patients with rheumatoid arthritis should take all the usual precautions to reduce their risk of a heart attack, including proper diet, exercise, no smoking and maintaining a healthy weight. "Try to avoid to get that heart attack," she said.

For the second study, Marie Gunnarsson, a doctoral student at the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues found that the risk of heart attack among newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients doubled during the first 10 years after diagnosis.

The researchers collected data on 7,954 newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients and compared that information with 38,913 people from the general Swedish population.

Over 10 years of follow-up, the researchers found that patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis had almost double the risk of a heart attack and dying from a heart attack. The increased risk grew over time, starting five years after diagnosis, the study found.

"This study shows that having rheumatoid arthritis confers an increased risk of having a myocardial infarction [heart attack], and that this risk increase is manifest already early in RA disease progress," Gunnarsson said in an ACR news release.

"The fact that there is no increased risk prior to rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis suggests that there is something in the rheumatoid arthritis disease itself, such as inflammatory processes that lead to this increased risk. Measures to bring down inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis might, thus, be beneficial also from a cardiovascular prevention point of view in this population," she said.

In the last report, a research team led by Dr. Kimberly Liang, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, found that diastolic dysfunction was more common in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, which could help explain the increased risk for heart problems in these people.

"Diastolic dysfunction occurred in 38.9 percent, compared to 28.8 percent in the non-rheumatoid arthritis group," Liang said. "We also found that patients in the rheumatoid arthritis group had higher average pulmonary arterial pressure, which is high blood pressure in the lungs and the right side of the heart. This is consistent with the impaired filling of the heart seen in diastolic dysfunction."

Wider use of echocardiography in patients with rheumatoid arthritis may reveal heart abnormalities before they are detected clinically, Liang said. An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Dr. John Hardin, chief science officer at the Arthritis Foundation, said these new studies highlight the toll that rheumatoid arthritis can take on the cardiovascular system.

"These studies are consistent with the idea that systemic inflammation promotes cardiovascular disease," Hardin said. "Rheumatoid arthritis creates a general state of inflammation within the body."

Hardin also noted that some arthritis drugs can increase the risk of heart problems in rheumatoid arthritis patients who already have damaged hearts. "For example, Enbrel (etanercept) can, in fact, in some people, potentiate heart failure, which can be a complication of myocardial infarction," he said.

To prevent a heart attack, patients with rheumatoid arthritis need to pay particular attention to cholesterol, blood pressure and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, Hardin said. "If you have rheumatoid arthritis, the things you do to protect yourself against cardiovascular disease become doubly important," he said.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that results in pain, stiffness, swelling, and limitation in the motion and function of multiple joints. The disease also can cause inflammation in other organs. An estimated 1.3 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

More information

To learn more about rheumatoid arthritis, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.



SOURCES: Hilal Maradit Kremers, M.D., associate professor of epidemiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Kimberly Liang, M.D., assistant professor, University of Pittsburgh; John Hardin, M.D., chief science officer, Arthritis Foundation, Atlanta; Oct. 25, 2008, presentations, American College of Rheumatology annual scientific meeting, San Francisco

Last Updated: Oct. 27, 2008

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