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11-04-2018 | Rheumatoid arthritis | Article

Cardiovascular co-morbidity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a narrative review of risk factors, cardiovascular risk assessment and treatment

BMC Rheumatology

Authors: Aprajita Jagpal, Iris Navarro-Millán

Publisher: BioMed Central


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is markedly increased in patients with rheumatoid arthritis partly due to accelerated atherosclerosis from chronic inflammation. Traditional cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, smoking, diabetes mellitus and physical inactivity are also highly prevalent among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and contribute to the CVD risk. The impact of traditional risk factors on the CVD risk appears to be different in the RA and non-RA population. However, hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus, body mass index and family history of CVD influence the CVD risk in RA patients the same way they do for the non-RA population. Despite that, screening and treatment of these risk factors is suboptimal among patients with RA. Recent guidelines from the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) recommend aggressive management of traditional risk factors in addition to RA disease activity control to decrease the CVD risk. Several CVD risk calculators are available for clinical use to stratify a patients’ risk of developing a CVD event. Most of these calculators do not account for RA as a risk factor; thus, a multiplication factor of 1.5 is recommended to predict the risk more accurately. In order to reduce CVD in the RA population, national guidelines for the prevention of CVD should be applied to manage traditional risk factors in addition to aggressive control of RA disease activity. While current data suggests a protective effect of non-biologic disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics on cardiovascular events among patients with RA, more data is needed to define this effect more accurately.

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