Protect Your Heart

Protect Your Heart

Rheumatoid arthritis puts you at a higher risk for heart disease and heart attacks. But making certain lifestyle changes can help prevent heart problems. Learn how to help keep your heart healthy. Note which changes you make in your journal.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms: Loss of appetite, fatigue, feeling sick, symptoms worse in A.M., weakness, fever, lumps under skin, reduced joint movement, stiffness, stiffness after rest, anxiety, depression, deformed joint, stiff joint, swollen joint, warm joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, lower back pain, upper back pain, symmetrical pain, numbness, tingling

Triggers:

Treatments:

Categories: Treatment

Duration

14

RA and Heart

Doctors aren't sure why people with RA have a high risk of heart disease. They think it may have to do with higher levels of inflammation in the body caused by RA -- inflammation is also linked to heart disease. Some of the meds used to treat RA can also increase heart disease risk. But no matter how long you've had RA, you can still make lifestyle changes to decrease your risk.

Prompt: Heart disease?

CTA: Learn the connection.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms: Fatigue, feeling sick, weakness, loss of appetite, fatigue, feeling sick, symptoms worse in A.M., weakness, fever, lumps under skin, reduced joint movement, stiffness, stiffness after rest, anxiety, depression, deformed joint, stiff joint, swollen joint, warm joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, lower back pain, upper back pain, symmetrical pain, numbness, tingling

Triggers:

Treatments: Exercise, dietary changes, meditation, relaxation therapy, stress reduction

Categories: Treatment

Add Omega-3s

What you eat can affect inflammation in your body -- some foods fight inflammation and others increase it. Remember, inflammation is bad for both RA and your heart. Inflammation fighters include:

* Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, and herring. 

* Fruits and vegetables

Try to add more of these foods to your diet. Having two 3-ounce servings of fish each week is a good start.

Prompt: Eat to reduce inflammation.

CTA: Track your diet.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms: Fatigue, feeling sick, weakness, loss of appetite, fatigue, feeling sick, symptoms worse in A.M., weakness, fever, lumps under skin, reduced joint movement, stiffness, stiffness after rest, anxiety, depression, deformed joint, stiff joint, swollen joint, warm joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, lower back pain, upper back pain, symmetrical pain, numbness, tingling

Triggers:

Treatments: Exercise, dietary changes, meditation, relaxation therapy, stress reduction

Categories: Treatment

Cholesterol Check

High cholesterol levels increase your risk of heart disease. Reducing high cholesterol foods can help keep cholesterol levels in check. The main culprits are foods high in saturated fat, including some meats, butter, cheese, whole milk, and processed foods. Aim to get less than 7% of your daily calories from saturated fats. For a 2,000 calorie diet, that's 140 calories or about 15 g of saturated fat. Track the food and its saturated fat grams in your Journal. Try to follow a plant-based diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. 

Prompt: Cut cholesterol.

CTA: Track your fats.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms: Fatigue, feeling sick, weakness, loss of appetite, symptoms worse in A.M., fever, lumps under skin, reduced joint movement, stiffness, stiffness after rest, anxiety, depression, deformed joint, stiff joint, swollen joint, warm joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, lower back pain, upper back pain, symmetrical pain, numbness, tingling

Triggers:

Treatments: Exercise, dietary changes, meditation, relaxation therapy, stress reduction

Categories: Treatment

Low-Salt Foods

High blood pressure is another heart disease risk. Help control your blood pressure by cutting back on sodium in your diet. If you have high blood pressure or are black, over age 51, or have diabetes or kidney disease, limit yourself to 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Alcohol can also raise blood pressure. If you drink, do so in moderation. Men should have no more than 2 drinks a day, and women, no more than 1. Make sure that alcohol does not interact with any medicines that you are on. Note your sodium and alcohol use in your journal. Bring your Pain Control Report to your next doctor appointment and see if cutting back helps control blood pressure.

Prompt: Low-salt foods.

CTA: Eat for optimal blood pressure.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms: Fatigue, feeling sick, weakness loss of appetite, fatigue, feeling sick, symptoms worse in A.M., weakness, fever, lumps under skin, reduced joint movement, stiffness, stiffness after rest, anxiety, depression, deformed joint, stiff joint, swollen joint, warm joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, lower back pain, upper back pain, symmetrical pain, numbness, tingling

Triggers:

Treatments: Exercise, dietary changes, meditation, relaxation therapy, stress reduction

Categories: Treatment

Kick the Habit

Smoking not only increases your risk of heart disease, but also can make your RA symptoms worse. Need help quitting? Try these tips:

* Choose a powerful reason to quit, and post it where you can see it every day.

* When you feel ready, set a quit date.

* Try nicotine-replacement therapy. It can make quitting easier.

* Try an oral medication such as Wellbutrin or Chantix. Both have been shown to be effective in helping smokers kick the habit.

* Avoid triggers that make you want to smoke, such as alcohol and coffee.

* Save the money you would have spent on cigarettes and buy yourself a reward.

Prompt: Stop smoking.

CTA: If you smoke, quit.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms: Fatigue, feeling sick, weakness, loss of appetite, symptoms worse in A.M., fever, lumps under skin, reduced joint movement, stiffness, stiffness after rest, anxiety, depression, deformed joint, stiff joint, swollen joint, warm joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, lower back pain, upper back pain, symmetrical pain, numbness, tingling,  

Triggers:

Treatments: Exercise, dietary changes, meditation, relaxation therapy, stress reduction

Categories: Treatment

Exercise Program

Getting regular exercise is a great way to help reduce RA symptoms. It's also key for keeping your heart healthy. Gradually work up to 30 minutes of low-impact exercise on as many days as you can. Check with your doctor to see what type of activity is right for you. Try these ideas to get going:

* Choose an exercise you really enjoy.

* Exercise with a friend.

* Join a class.

* Browse Exercise Goals for more ideas.

Keep track of your daily exercise in your journal and note your progress.

Prompt: Stay active.

CTA: Keep your body moving.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms: Fatigue, feeling sick, weakness

Triggers:

Treatments: Exercise, dietary changes, meditation, relaxation therapy, stress reduction

Categories: Treatment

Health Screenings

When was the last time you saw your doctor? If it's been a while, make an appointment. Before your visit, make a Note in your Journal to talk about your risk for heart disease. Discuss your health history and your family history of heart disease. Ask how often you should have heart disease screening tests for high blood pressure, blood sugar, and high cholesterol, and whether you need any other tests such as an electrocardiogram or a stress test.

Prompt: Get checkups.

CTA: See your doctor.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms: Fatigue, feeling sick, weakness, loss of appetite, symptoms worse in A.M., fever, lumps under skin, reduced joint movement, stiffness, stiffness after rest, anxiety, depression, deformed joint, stiff joint, swollen joint, warm joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, lower back pain, upper back pain, symmetrical pain, numbness, tingling

Triggers:

Treatments: Exercise, dietary changes, meditation, relaxation therapy, stress reduction

Categories: Treatment

Heart Health

Some meds to treat RA may increase the risk of heart disease. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen.

Other meds -- including methotrexate and similar meds -- may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Talk with your doctor about the meds you take and whether making any changes can help protect your heart.

Prompt: Discuss your meds.

CTA: Know meds with heart risk.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms: Fatigue, feeling sick, weakness, loss of appetite, fatigue, feeling sick, symptoms worse in A.M., weakness, fever, lumps under skin, reduced joint movement, stiffness, stiffness after rest, anxiety, depression, deformed joint, stiff joint, swollen joint, warm joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, lower back pain, upper back pain, symmetrical pain, numbness, tingling

Triggers:

Treatments: Exercise, dietary changes, meditation, relaxation therapy, stress reduction, Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn, naproxen, ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin IB, Orasone, Sterapred, Deltasone, Meticorten, Celebrex, celecoxib,  Rheumatrex, Trexall, methotrexate

Categories: Treatment

Statins

Statins are a type of drug used to help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people with high cholesterol. Although statins are generally safe, they can cause troublesome side effects in some people, such as a headache, difficulty sleeping, muscle pain, dizziness, constipation, and diarrhea. Depending on your risk for heart disease, your doctor may recommend a statin. 

Prompt: Consider statins.

CTA: Ask about these meds.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms: Fatigue, feeling sick, weakness

Triggers:

Treatments: Exercise, dietary changes, meditation, relaxation therapy, stress reduction,  Lipitor, atorvastatin, Torvast, fluvastatin, Lescol, Altocor, pravastatin, Pravachol, rosuvastatin, Crestor, Mevacor, lovastatin, Zocor, simvastatin

Categories: Treatment

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on January 14, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

FDA: "Controlling Cholesterol with Statins."

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Cholesterol-Lowering Medications."

American College of Rheumatology: "Rheumatoid Arthritis."

American Lung Association.

American Heart Association: "Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations."

Arthritis Foundation: "Rheumatoid Arthritis and Heart Disease."

Arthritis Today: "RA and Heart Disease: What You Need to Know," "Statins and Arthritis," "Fish May Reduce Inflammation," More Fiber, Less Inflammation?" "Eat to Beat Joint Inflammation," "Inflammation and Heart Disease."

Harvard Health Publications: "Joint inflammation may raise risk of heart disease."

Harvard Medical School: "Patient Education: 10 Frequently Asked Questions about Rheumatoid Arthritis."

The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center: "Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment."

McClernon, F.J. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, April 2007.

National Cancer Institute.

Pennington Biomedical Research Center: "Women and Heart Disease."

Ohio State University Research: "Omega-3 Fatty Acids Affect Risk of Depression, Inflammation."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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