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THURSDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- One year after a person is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis they are at a 60 percent increased risk of heart attack compared to people without the disease, a new study suggests.
The study included almost 7,500 patients who were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease marked by painful inflammation of the lining of the joints, and more than 37,000 people without the disease. The study was conducted between between 1995 and 2006; median follow-up was just over four years with a maximum follow-up of 12 years.
According to the Swedish researchers, the risk of heart attack rose 60 percent one to four years after the rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, compared to people without the condition, and remained at the same level for five to 12 years after diagnosis. The risk of any type of ischemic (blocked blood flow) heart disease increased 50 percent one to four years after a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis compared to those without the condition, and it remained at that level five to 12 years after diagnosis.
The study appears in the December issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine.
"Our findings emphasize the importance of monitoring a patient's heart risk from the moment they are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, as the risk rises rapidly in the first few years," lead author Marie Holmqvist, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said in a journal news release.
She added that it "is also very clear that more research is needed to determine the mechanisms that link these two health conditions."
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about rheumatoid arthritis.