How Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect the Heart?

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The risk of endocarditis


The occurrence endocarditis can be another way of how rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects the heart. Endocarditis itself is commonly thought as infection of endocardium (inner lining of the heart).

Typically, it is caused by infection due to germs or bacteria that attach in the damaged areas of the heart. Since RA could pose the risk of inflammation in the endocardium, this increases the risk of developing infection in the endocardium.

Endocarditis must be treated as well. If it is left untreated, the problem can pose the risk of damage to the heart valves which then eventually will cause some life-threatening complications. The use of antibiotics is the main treatment, but sometime surgery may be required.

Less mobility issue

Having joint problems such as RA may put you at greater risk of becoming a sedentary individual. The limited movements in the affected joints can be a great temptation to say ‘no’ for exercise.

Lack of physical activity is bad for overall health. This can raise your risk of overweight or even obesity, too. And being obese is a nightmare for the health of your heart, especially true if most of your excessive weight is fat – not muscles.

Some treatments for RA can have an effect, too


While RA itself can directly affect your risk of heart problem or other cardiovascular conditions, some RA medications also cause bad effects for the heart.

For instance, the use of steroids could promote diabetes, hypertension, and hardening arteries (all of these things are bad for the heart). NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen can pose the risk of kidney damage and hypertension. Both steroids and NSAIDs are common treatment options for RA.

But the good news, some RA treatments might help decrease the risk of heart attack, too – according to a journal released in the Journal Arthritis Research & Therapy. These include some biologic agents and DMARDs (such as methotrexate).

But overall, the use of each medication for RA should outweigh the possible risk of the side effects. If you have some or many risk factors of heart problems, tell your doctor! For example, if you are an individual with high LDL (bad cholesterol), your doctor may also prescribe statins!

Tips for coping

If you have RA and you do concern to your risk of heart disease, the following are some helpful checklists to make this risk less likely!

  1. Control your RA as well! If your RA is out of control, this increases the risk of some complications such as heart disease. Fortunately, most lifestyle approaches for RA are also good for the health of your heart.
  2. Say ‘no’ for smoking. Chewing tobacco such as smoking is a risk factor of heart disease and other health conditions.
  3. Get to know other risk factors of heart disease that you have. These include obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, a family history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc. If you have some of these risk factors, work with your physician to make them under control!
  4. Eating right! This may be a common advice for all diseases. Full your diet with more healthy foods and fiber – but still, eat anything moderately & watch on the calories! Restrict foods containing lots of saturated fats, trans-fats, cholesterol, and sodium (see also foods that can increase your blood pressure)!
  5. Do the exercise regularly and in the right way. This can help control your RA by strengthening the muscles around the joint, improving your living skills, & keeping your weight off – and also great for your heart, especially for cardio exercises. See also safe exercises for people with arthritis!
  6. Never ignore any sign and symptom of heart disease. Sometime you may be too focus on your RA and ignore other signs such as short of breath.
  7. Take regular checkups for your overall health.
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