Popular Rheumatic Drugs May Lower Heart Disease Risk

Popular Rheumatic Drugs May Lower Heart Disease Risk

By Rheumatoid Connect StaffA Published at November 20, 2015 Views 2,156

People with rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. But research suggests that some RA medicines may reduce that risk.

According to Mayo Clinic, there could be many reasons for the greater heart risk, from the inflammation that comes with these conditions to the sedentary lifestyle that is common in people who live with aches and pains. If your joints ache all day, the last thing you'll want to do is go for a walk after dinner.

This increased cardiovascular risk is also linked to some popular medications that treat rheumatic conditions, like prednisone and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medicines treat inflammation caused by arthritis, but they may also raise blood pressure, especially in patients who already have issues with heart health, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Good news

Not all rheumatic drugs are bad for your heart, however. Some may actually lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes. At Arthritis.org, Martin Jan Bergman, MD, chief of rheumatology at Taylor Hospital in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania said that patients who take disease-modifying anti-rheumatics (DMARDs) have a lower risk of heart disease and heart failure, and the risk continues to diminish the longer they take them.

Bergman found that patents who took methotrexate for a year decreased their risk of heart attack by 18 percent and risk of stroke by 11 percent.

Anti-TNF drugs may help too

Tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitors (anti-TNF drugs) like etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade) and adalimumab (Humira) may also reduce the risk of heart disease. According to a Johns Hopkins study reported by HealthDay.com, people with rheumatoid arthritis who took anti-TNF drugs had a 37 percent lower risk of thickening in their carotid arteries than those who weren't taking them. These drugs may also help people who suffer from psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, because they block the cytokines that cause inflammation.

A 2011 British review in the journal Current Opinions in Lipidology stated that hydroxychloroquine may improve certain heart disease risk factors like blood sugar and cholesterol levels. This drug—used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus—wasn't proven to directly reduce the risk of heart disease, though.

Take matters into your own hands

There are simple things you can do to help protect yourself from the higher risk of heart issues that rheumatoid arthritis brings. Stay active and follow a heart-healthy diet. Red meat contains the type of fat that causes inflammation, but the omega-3 fatty acids found in many fish may help ease joint pain. Trade a burger for a fish fillet and your joints will thank you. It's also important to get your fill of fruits and vegetables. Most contain high levels of antioxidants, which can help protect you against the oxidative stress caused by inflammation.

Be sure you check with your doctor about which drugs and lifestyle changes are best for you.

To learn more about RA and heart problems:

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects the Entire Body
Cardiovascular Risks in Rheumatoid Arthritis
New FDA Warning for Ibuprofen and Naproxen

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