“All chronic inflammatory diseases are characterized by an increased risk of heart disease.” This is said by Prof. Carlo Selmi, Head of Rheumatology at Humanitas, who spoke about it during an interview with the press agency Ansa.
The link between arthritis and heart disease
Those who suffer from rheumatic diseases should not underestimate them even for the implications they may have on heart health: if you do not treat them, in fact, these diseases go hand in hand with heart problems. For example, in those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis the risk of heart attack has increased by 50%, or even those who have psoriatic arthritis have a cardiac risk similar to those who suffer from diabetes. “All chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatic ones, are characterized by an increased risk of heart disease, in particular linked to a more severe and rapid atherosclerosis,” explained Prof. Selmi.
“The thickening of the walls of blood vessels that is the basis of atherosclerosis arises, in fact, from inflammation – clarified Selmi -. For this reason, the same substances that cause chronic inflammation in rheumatological diseases, such as cytokines IL6 and TNFalfa, are also mediators of cardiovascular health.
“Damage to the heart and arteries, especially to the cells inside the vessels, begins to occur shortly after the onset of the disease, but only after a certain period of time do we begin to observe the obvious effects,” he concluded.
How to prevent or reduce risks
The first step, according to the professor, is “to become aware of the problem and scrupulously follow a therapy that allows to keep rheumatic diseases under control”. It is also very important to reduce all other risk factors that could cause heart suffering such as overweight, high blood pressure and cholesterol. “The levels of the latter are often high in those patients with rheumatoid arthritis, also as a result of some therapies. In any case, the use of statins can be useful and is generally safe in these patients.
As far as the prevention is concerned, other risk factors concern the lifestyle: avoid smoking and prefer a healthy and balanced diet. “Physical exercise, finally, is strongly recommended to help the heart of those who suffer from rheumatic diseases but it must be aerobic, suitable for the characteristics of the individual and with low joint impact,” he concluded.