Morbidity and mortality rates are higher in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients than in the general population. Many studies have shown that coronary artery disease is one of the most common causes of death in RA and seems to occur at a younger age than in the general population. RA per se is as much a cardiovascular (CV) risk factor as diabetes, arterial hypertension and dyslipidemia etc., and so it is necessary to plan a follow-up using the same diagnostic and therapeutic approaches as those commonly used for primary and secondary prevention in non-RA patients at high CV risk. All of the cardiac structures can be affected during the course of RA (valves, the conduction system, the myocardium, endocardium and pericardium, and the coronary arteries), and cardiac complications include a variety of clinical manifestations. As these are all associated with an unfavourable prognosis, it is essential to detect subclinical cardiac involvement in still asymptomatic RA patients in order to assure adequate long-term treatment.
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