The finding comes from 6.5 years of data collected on a nationwide sample of nearly 13,000 U.S. men. It helps solve a medical mystery.
The stereotype of a gout sufferer is a middle-aged man who drinks too much, has high blood pressure, diabetes, and high levels of fats in his blood. All of these things increase one's risk of heart attack. While doctors have suspected that gout itself is a risk factor, it's been hard to tell whether this is so.
Now Eswar Krishnan, MD, MPH, of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues find that even when one controls for other risks, gout still emerges as a risk factor for heart attack.
True, Krishnan and colleagues note, gout adds only 26% to a man's risk of heart attack. This isn't a huge increase. But it's as big a factor as many other established heart attack risks.
"Gout was the third largest [risk factor] after smoking and family history" of heart attack, Krishnan and colleagues report.
And as the stereotype suggests, a person with gout usually has other heart attack risk factors.
Gout is a kind of arthritis. It's caused by uric acid in the blood which deposit as crystals in the joints and set off the body's inflammatory immune response. Inflammation is part of a process that results in blood clots that can cause heart attack and stroke.
Krishnan and colleagues report their findings in the August 2006 issue of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.