Rheumatoid disease (aka rheumatoid arthritis) increases the risk of many heart problems, including heart attack, stroke and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries).
Some studies say that rheumatoid patients are twice as likely to develop heart disease, and are at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Rheumatoid inflammation is known for attacking the joints, but it can also damage the lining of blood vessels and the coronary arteries, causing higher blood pressure and a reduced flow of blood to the heart.
It makes sense to keep your heart healthy.
Here are three steps that you can take today to minimize your risks.
1. Don't smoke
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease and peripheral artery disease (PAD), which can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Smoking has also been linked with a greater risk of developing severe rheumatoid disease, reducing the chances of a rheumatoid remission.
2. Maintain a healthy weight.
Eat a low-fat diet that includes vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Reduce your intake of dairy and red meat.
It can be challenging to exercise with rheumatoid disease, but even moving a small amount each day will help to keep your heart healthy.
3. Talk to your rheumatologist about heart concerns.
Make sure that your rheumatologist is aware of any heart issues that run in your family, and that you are having regular check-ups for cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
If you have high cholesterol your doctor may recommend a medication like statins.
Di Giuseppe D, et al. Cigarette smoking and risk of rheumatoid arthritis: A dose-response meta-analysis. Arthritis Research & Therapy 2014;16:1.