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How Are Heart Disease and RA Linked?

Because you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), it’s extra important to take care of your ticker. RA makes you more likely to get heart disease or have a heart attack. But you can take action to lower that risk.

Some of those steps are simple things you do every day, such as:

  • If heart disease runs in your family, tell your doctor.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat protein (such as poultry, fish, beans, nuts, seeds, and low-fat dairy), and whole grains.
  • Limit salt and saturated fats.
  • Avoid foods made with trans fats. (Check the label for “partially hydrogenated” ingredients.)
  • Get plenty of physical activity. Ask your doctor if there are any limits on what you can do.
  • Keep up with your checkups and tests for conditions that affect your heart, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.

The Inflammation Connection

Inflammation is a major part of RA. It's also linked to heart disease and the chance of having a heart attack.

Some experts think the inflammation in RA may raise inflammation throughout the whole body, including in the heart’s coronary arteries.

Ask your doctor if your RA medicines will affect the chance that you'll get heart disease, and ask what you can do to manage that risk. 

Your doctor can help you decide if your medications and doses are right for your heart's health. If you have other risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol, she may prescribe other drugs, such as statins that lower your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on March 24, 2015

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