A study, reported in Arthritis & Rheumatism (February 2005), corroborated the strong association between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and congestive heart failure. The study included 165 Minnesota residents with RA. The Mayo Clinic researchers found that the participants were 2 times as likely to develop heart failure over a 15-year period, compared with 116 residents of similar age and gender without the disease. Study author Paulo Nicola, MD, acknowledged earlier studies demonstrating the same connection. "This one followed patients from the beginning of the disease, describing how the increase in heart-failure risk was present in the early stages and throughout."
He pointed out that the study indicated the need for aggressive treatment of risk factors for heart disease and stroke (eg, hypertension and diabetes) in individuals with RA. "The clinician should be aware of the higher risk of heart failure and look for the early symptoms of heart failure even in people without cardiovascular risk factors,"said Dr. Nicola. "Treatment should be focused not only on the rheumatoid condition, but also on control of those risk factors."