DEAR MAYO CLINIC: Is it true that people with rheumatoid arthritis have a higher risk of heart disease? How are the two conditions related? Is there a way to lower the risk?
ANSWER: Studies have shown that if you have rheumatoid arthritis, your risk of developing heart disease is two to three times higher than people who do not have the disorder. Although the exact connection between the two conditions is unclear, a number of factors seem to play into the increased heart disease risk. Regular check-ups, tests to check for heart problems, lifestyle changes and being able to recognize symptoms of heart disease can all help manage the risk.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that causes swelling. It often affects the small joints in the hands and feet and causes joint tenderness, pain and stiffness. But the disorder can go beyond the joints, too, and that is part of the connection to heart disease.