Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Rheumatoid Arthritis Raises Heart Failure Risk

RA Patients Have Twice the Risk of Heart Failure, Study Shows
WebMD Health News

Feb. 3, 2005 -- Rheumatoid arthritis is a significant risk factor for heart failure.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic find that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) doubles the risk of heart failure. Their report is in February's Arthritis & Rheumatism.

In heart failure, the heart muscle doesn't pump as much blood as the body needs. The heart still beats, but it's not working effectively. Many studies have linked heart failure to chemicals related to inflammation. These inflammatory chemicals are important in diseases such as RA, an autoimmune and progressively chronic disease that is caused by an immune system malfunction, which promotes inflammation.

After taking into account risk factors for heart failure, the researchers wanted to see if RA promotes inflammation. They knew that heart problems have been called an underlying cause of a "substantial proportion" of deaths among RA patients.

Heart failure raises the risk of heart disease death by four- to 18-fold, say Paulo Jorge Nicola, MD, and colleagues. They estimate that heart failure strikes 2.4% to 5.5% of the general population over age 65.

In RA, joints become inflamed. Over time, the inflammation can damage the joints, even causing disability. Imaging studies have indicated that people with RA have signs of heart failure.

RA Doubled Heart Failure Risk

The researchers followed 575 rheumatoid arthritis patients and 583 people without rheumatoid arthritis for 12-15 years. Researchers also examined their medical records, starting when the participants were 18 years old.

Each RA patient was compared with a participant without RA of the same age and gender. Most (73%) were women about 57 years old. In general, RA affects women twice as often as men and usually starts between age 40 and 60.

At the start of the study no one had heart failure. But by the study's end, heart failure had developed in 165 RA patients and 115 without RA. That's 34% of the RA patients and 25% of those without RA.

After taking into account risk factors that can increase the risk of developing heart failure, the study showed that RA was associated with almost twice the risk of developing heart failure.

"We observed that patients with RA have twice the risk for the development of congestive heart failure when compared to subjects without RA," write the researchers.

Today on WebMD

rubbing hands
Avoid these 6 common mistakes.
mature couple exercising
Decrease pain, increase energy.
mature woman threading needle
How much do you know?
Swelling, fatigue, pain, and more.
Lucille Ball
Hand bones X-ray
prescription pills
Woman massaging her neck
woman roasting vegetables in oven
Woman rubbing shoulder
doctor and patient hand examination