Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause High Blood Pressure?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a joint disorder related to the abnormality in the body immune system. Still, it primarily affects the joint – like most things what happen in other types of arthritis. However RA can be a systematic condition, too. It could pose the risk of some complications that have nothing to do with the joint, for example the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure).

Understanding hypertension in general

When the blood flows inside the blood vessel, the blood creates an amount of pressure against the wall of vessel. This pressure is what we call as blood pressure – and it is measured in mmHg (millimeters of mercury).

image_illustration282And in general, it is classified into two major figures:

  1. Systolic pressure, the pressure generated when the heart pumps the blood.
  2. Diastolic pressure, the pressure generated when the heart is at rest (between beats of the heart). Typically, the systolic reading is greater than what you see for your diastolic pressure.

A blood pressure, lower than 130 /80 mmHg (130 points to systolic and 80 points to diastolic pressure) is commonly considered normal! Slightly higher than this reading is considered pre-hypertension! See more the range of ‘normal and abnormal’ blood pressure levels in this section!

Based on the cause of the problem, hypertension is categorized into 2 major groups; primary and secondary hypertension. Primary means the problem is not triggered /caused by a certain underlying condition. Many times, its cause is not known and it usually develops as the age.

On the other hand, secondary hypertension is typically linked to an underlying condition or even the use of certain medication. In fact, there are lots of conditions that can affect the blood pressure and cause hypertension – and RA is one of them.

The following are some medications and other health conditions that can trigger secondary high blood pressure:

  1. The use of some birth-control pills, pain relievers, decongestants, etc.
  2. OSA (obstructive sleep apnea).
  3. Problems of thyroid.
  4. Defects of blood vessels at birth.
  5. Problems of kidneys.
  6. Or even abusing alcohol can trigger hypertension, too. See in-depth information about how your blood pressure increases in here!

There is nothing you can do to prevent primary hypertension since it is related to the age. But there are plenty of options to cope with secondary hypertension and improve the health of your blood circulation in long term, these include:

  1. Maintain the weight, either obesity or overweight increases the risk of hypertension!
  2. Eating right, especially pay attention to foods high in salt and saturated fats. See also healthy foods for your blood pressure!
  3. Regular exercise.
  4. Don’t smoke!
  5. Sleep well! Etc.

Why and how does rheumatoid arthritis cause high blood pressure?

RA and its medications (such as corticosteroid and some NSAIDs) could pose the risk of hypertension. Furthermore, almost bad effects from RA that impact the heart can affect the blood pressure, too – see more in here!

RA itself is linked to some risk factors of hypertension. These include atherosclerosis and lack of physical activity (having RA makes you less likely to keep active, in other words you are more likely to become a sedentary individual).

Moreover, the widespread inflammation of RA could affect arteries that go to the lungs, increasing the risk of pulmonary hypertension. RA may cause shortness of breath, too – this occurs because ‘out of control’ of RA could cause scarring & inflammation in the lung tissues.

Some treatments for RA pose the risk of kidney damage. And while hypertension itself could be the trigger of kidney damage, abnormal function of kidneys can make the hypertension worse.

An interesting issue, although RA is linked to hypertension but hypertension itself in people with RA is more likely to be undiagnosed, according to a study. Whatever this finding, it’s so important to keep monitoring your blood pressure if you have RA!