Why people with Rheumatoid Arthritis are at greater risk for Heart diseases

The Connection Between Mental State and Heart Health in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Recent research found that the risk for heart and cardiovascular diseases are correlated with the mental state of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
In a recent blog, I discussed how depression and anxiety affect the severity of a conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. But how how is heart health related?

It is a known fact that people who suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis are at greater risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases. Recent research also found that symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and the level of social support may  affect the build-up of plaque in arteries (Atherosclerosis), increasing the risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases in such patients.

plaque in arteries

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic autoimmune condition - a disease in which, for unknown reasons, some cells of the immune system attack the body itself, in this case, the joints, and sometimes other organs as well.

This condition causes pain, sensitivity, stiffness, limited range of movement and proper functioning of joints. However, Rheumatoid Arthritis is not limited only to joints, and inflammation can affect other organs, for example, the eyes and lungs.

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Researches indicate that people who suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis, especially those with a very active disease that’s not under control have an increased risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases. In fact, heart and cardiovascular diseases are one of the leading causes of death among people within people with Rheumatoid Arthritis and other autoimmune conditions. Nonetheless, the mechanisms behind this correlation are still not 100% clear.

The correlation between autoimmune joint inflammation, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, to heart and cardiovascular diseases, was traditionally attributed mainly to the inflammatory process that accelerates the build-up of plaque in the arteries, which increases the risk for heart and cardiovascular diseases, and to the use of steroids (e.g. Prednisone) that, as is, can accelerate blockage of arteries.

mental health

Researchers at Columbia University asked to examine, for the first time, mental illnesses that were found to maybe increase the risk for heart and cardiovascular diseases in the general population - is also the cause of increased risk for heart and cardiovascular diseases in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

The research, which its findings were published in the magazine of the American College of Rheumatology, Arthritis Care and Research, was based on data collected from 195 patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis, with no background of heart and cardiovascular diseases, and on data collected from 1073 subjects with no Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Researchers used scientifically approved tools to measure depression, stress, anger, support, and general nuisance. The researchers later examined clinical indications for Atherosclerosis by performing CT on the subjects to measure levels of calcium that accumulated in the arteries that provide blood to the heart and also by running an ultrasound test to measure the thickness of the main artery (aorta), and plaque accumulation in the Carotid arteries.

After analyzing all the collected data and findings, researchers determined that the risk for mid or high accumulation of calcium among subjects with Rheumatoid Arthritis increased with any increase in the level of anxiety (in 10%), anger (in 14%), and depression (3.14 times).

When researchers took into account the clinical indications of inflammation (Interleukin 6 (IL-6) and CRP), these correlations remained among the subjects with Rheumatoid Arthritis, but not among those without Rheumatoid Arthritis.

It was also found that among those with Rheumatoid Arthritis, job stress leads to a 3.21 times higher risk for plaque accumulation in the Carotid arteries, while social support was correlated with a thinner aorta.

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The effect of Rheumatoid Arthritis on the heart

Many published researches correlated Rheumatoid Arthritis and an increased risk for heart and cardiovascular diseases. An extensive research that was published in May 2015 in the  Arthritis & Rheumatology publication found that Rheumatoid Arthritis increases by 2.55 times the likelihood to die from a cardiac event.

Another research that was presented back at the 2015 ICNC conference, found that people who suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis a at twice the risk for a sudden cardiac event without prior indications, in comparison to people without Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Under this research, researchers examined the presence of Ischemia (an inadequate blood supply to an organ or part of the body, especially the heart muscles) and complete blockage that affects blood flow to the heart in 91 patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis who did not have any symptoms of heart disease by running an imaging test with a radioactive substance called SPECT.

 RA and hearth health



That test revealed troubling clinical findings in 25% of the patients that indicate the presence of Ischemia or blockage that might lead to a sudden cardiac event, with no prior indications.

A research that was published back in 2014 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases publication, examined 42,000 people with Rheumatoid Arthritis and 82,000 without chronic inflammatory conditions, found that in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis who were not under any systemic or biological treatment the risk to suffer from a cardiac event was 39% higher and for those who were receiving treatment, the risk was higher, at 58% (researcher took into account other risk factors for heart and cardiovascular diseases).

It’s worth mentioning that the connection between medical treatment to the risk of heart diseases for people with autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis is hard to examine in such a research, since, on one hand, the medical treatment which reduces inflammation has the potential to lower risks for heart and cardiovascular diseases, and on the other hand, patients who are put on a systemic or biological treatment are mostly those who suffer from a more severe condition and therefore are, to begin with, in greater risk for heart and cardiovascular diseases to begin with.

Whether CBD can help with heart health is an entirely different topic. Some researched have shown that CBD can help reduce blood pressure and, in tern, that helps reducing risk for heart diseases. I really cannot attest to that as I have no experience with that.

What I can attest is that for me, and for many of my customers, CBD has proven to reduce inflammation, and by doing so, this can prevent systemic symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. More specifically in connection with the topic, it can help prevent that inflammation that contributes to the accumulation of plaque in the arteries and help support a healthy cardiovascular system.

Additionally, as mentioned, steroids are increasing the risk for hear diseases and since consuming my CBD-rich 2800mg broad spectrum oil, I could completely stop taking steroids, and therefore eliminating a major risk factor.

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Reference: Arthritis Care & Research

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