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Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients have a Lower Risk of Dying from Heart Disease, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 09, 2015 09:33 AM EST

Fewer rheumatoid arthritis patients are dying from heart disease, a new study found.

For this study, the researchers from Mayo Clinic examined the number of deaths due to heart disease for two groups of people who were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The first group involved 315 people who found out they had the illness between 2000 and 2007. The second group of 498 people were diagnosed during the 1980s and 90s. The average age of the entire sample set was 60. Two-thirds of them were females.

The researchers calculated that from 2000 to 2007, 2.8 percent of them had died from heart disease. The death rate for the other group was significantly higher at 7.9 percent. More specifically, the researchers found that the death rate for coronary artery disease fell from 4.7 percent in patients who were diagnosed in the 1980s and 90s to 1.2 percent in patients diagnosed from 2000 to 2007.

The team could not determine what exactly caused the death rate to fall. The lead author of the study, Dr. Elena Myasoedova, reasoned that "earlier and more vigilant screening for heart problems, improved treatment for heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and in general, more attention to heart health in patients with rheumatoid arthritis" could all be contributing factors.

The researchers noted that the study is a good sign for patients with rheumatoid arthritis since the condition has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. Previous research reported that people with rheumatoid arthritis have a 50 to 60 percent increased risk of a heart attack and other coronary conditions within one to four years after being diagnosed.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that affects the joints. The inflammatory condition, which is not curable, typically involves the hands and feet.

The study's findings were presented at the American College of Rheumatology meeting held in San Francisco, California.

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