Health News for Senior Citizens

Health News for Seniors

Deaths from heart disease declining among rheumatoid arthritis patients

Mayo clinic presents arthritis research on rheumatoid, gout and opioid use

Older woman crippled by arthritisNov. 25, 2015 - Rheumatoid arthritis patients, most often senior citizens, are twice as likely as the average person to develop heart disease, but a new study shows that efforts to prevent heart problems and diagnose and treat heart disease early may be paying off.

Despite the heightened danger, deaths from cardiovascular disease among people with rheumatoid arthritis are declining, the research found. The study was among Mayo Clinic research presented at the American College of Rheumatology's annual meeting earlier in November.

In the study on rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease, researchers looked at heart disease deaths within 10 years of rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis among two groups of people:

         315 patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis from 2000 to 2007 and

         498 patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the 1980s and 1990s.

They also looked at heart disease deaths among 813 people without the rheumatic disease. Roughly two-thirds of patients studied were senior women, and the average age was 60.


They found a significantly lower rate of deaths from heart disease in the more recently diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients than in those diagnosed earlier: 2.8 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively.

The study also analyzed deaths among rheumatoid arthritis patients from a particular type of cardiovascular disease - coronary artery disease - and found those too declined in the 10 years after the patients studied were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

Among the 2000-07 diagnosis group, 1.2 percent died of coronary artery disease, paralleling the general population, compared with 4.7 percent of those diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the 1990s.

"More research is needed to confirm why heart disease deaths among rheumatoid arthritis patients have declined, but potential factors include earlier and more vigilant screening for heart problems, improved treatment for heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and in general, more attention to heart health in patients with rheumatoid arthritis," says lead author Elena Myasoedova, M.D., Ph.D., a rheumatologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Mayo Clinic has long studied the link between rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease to try to break it. As part of that effort, rheumatologists and cardiologists established Mayo's Cardio-Rheumatology Clinic two years ago to pioneer new heart disease diagnostic, prevention and treatment tools for patients with rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.

Other Mayo research presented at the rheumatology conference found:

         The incidence of gout has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and people with gout are likelier to have other serious diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease. In addition, people are now likelier to have gout in joint areas other than their big toes, which may make diagnosis more challenging.

         Rheumatoid arthritis patients have less diversity in their gut microbes than does the general population, and appear to have an abundance of certain gut bacteria whose numbers are rare in healthy people.

         Opioid medication use is significantly higher among rheumatoid arthritis patients than among others, and in general, isn't related to disease severity. Rates of chronic opioid use are also higher in those with rheumatoid arthritis, particularly among younger patients and women.

About Arthritis: Rheumatoid, Osteoarthritis and Gout

If you feel pain and stiffness in your body or have trouble moving around, you might have arthritis. Most kinds of arthritis cause pain and swelling in your joints. Joints are places where two bones meet, such as your elbow or knee. Over time, a swollen joint can become severely damaged. Some kinds of arthritis can also cause problems in your organs, such as your eyes or skin.

Types of arthritis include

         Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It's often related to aging or to an injury.

         Autoimmune arthritis happens when your body's immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of this kind of arthritis.

         Juvenile arthritis is a type of arthritis that happens in children.

         Infectious arthritis is an infection that has spread from another part of the body to the joint.

         Psoriatic arthritis affects people with psoriasis.

         Gout is a painful type of arthritis that happens when too much uric acid builds up in the body. It often starts in the big toe.

More about arthritis: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Cause Loss of Function in Joints

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers.

More women than men get rheumatoid arthritis. It often starts in middle age and is most common in older people. You might have the disease for only a short time, or symptoms might come and go. The severe form can last a lifetime.

Rheumatoid arthritis is different from osteoarthritis, the common arthritis that often comes with older age. RA can affect body parts besides joints, such as your eyes, mouth and lungs. RA is an autoimmune disease, which means the arthritis results from your immune system attacking your body's own tissues.

No one knows what causes rheumatoid arthritis. Genes, environment, and hormones might contribute. Treatments include medicine, lifestyle changes, and surgery. These can slow or stop joint damage and reduce pain and swelling.

Osteoarthritis Most Common Form of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It causes pain, swelling, and reduced motion in your joints. It can occur in any joint, but usually it affects your hands, knees, hips or spine.

Osteoarthritis breaks down the cartilage in your joints. Cartilage is the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage absorbs the shock of movement. When you lose cartilage, your bones rub together. Over time, this rubbing can permanently damage the joint.

Risk factors for osteoarthritis include

         Being overweight

         Getting older

         Injuring a joint

No single test can diagnose osteoarthritis. Most doctors use several methods, including medical history, a physical exam, x-rays, or lab tests.

Treatments include exercise, medicines, and sometimes surgery.

Gout a Painful Arthritis

Gout is a common, painful form of arthritis. It causes swollen, red, hot and stiff joints.

Gout happens when uric acid builds up in your body. Uric acid comes from the breakdown of substances called purines. Purines are in your body's tissues and in foods, such as liver, dried beans and peas, and anchovies. Normally, uric acid dissolves in the blood. It passes through the kidneys and out of the body in urine. But sometimes uric acid can build up and form needle-like crystals. When they form in your joints, it is very painful. The crystals can also cause kidney stones.

Often, gout first attacks your big toe. It can also attack ankles, heels, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows. At first, gout attacks usually get better in days. Eventually, attacks last longer and happen more often.

You are more likely to get gout if you

         Are a man

         Have family member with gout

         Are overweight

         Drink alcohol

         Eat too many foods rich in purines

Gout can be hard to diagnose. Your doctor may take a sample of fluid from an inflamed joint to look for crystals. You can treat gout with medicines.

Pseudogout has similar symptoms and is sometimes confused with gout. However, it is caused by calcium phosphate, not uric acid.

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