Purpose of review: The incidence and mortality of cardiovascular disease are increased in the context of rheumatoid arthritis. The purpose of this review is to examine our evolving understanding of the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease in rheumatoid arthritis and to underscore the importance of tailored prevention of cardiovascular disease in this select population.
Recent findings: Recent reports have highlighted the shared pathobiology of cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis, both of which represent inflammatory disorders. Several reports have also provided much-needed insight into the deleterious impact that select therapies (including cyclo-oxygenase-2-specific inhibitors) may have in terms of the risk of cardiovascular disease in rheumatoid arthritis. Although further study is warranted, preliminary investigations also suggest that aggressive anti-inflammatory therapy, including the adjunctive use of statins, may play important cardioprotective roles in rheumatoid arthritis.
Summary: The pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease in rheumatoid arthritis is complex and involves several intermediate factors, including dyslipidemia, elevations in serum homocysteine, impaired insulin sensitivity, and endothelial dysfunction. Given the burden of cardiovascular disease in this population, it is important that health care providers caring for rheumatoid arthritis patients adopt a treatment course that is both comprehensive and individualized to address specific risk factors for cardiovascular disease.