Purpose of review: This review examines current evidence to address the question whether rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a coronary heart disease equivalent, similar to type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM2).
Recent findings: Cross-sectional and longitudinal epidemiological studies show a two-fold higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in patients with RA, and the magnitude of this increased risk is comparable to the risk associated with DM2. However, the mechanisms responsible for this appear to be different in the two conditions, with RA-related CVD being attributed to 'high-grade' systemic inflammation as well as classical CVD risk factors. Several classical risk factors are affected by RA or its medications, and there are some paradoxical associations between obesity or lipid abnormalities and CVD death in RA.
Summary: Management of RA-related CVD is likely to require both aggressive control of inflammation and systematic screening and management of classical CVD risk factors. It remains unknown whether primary prevention strategies applied successfully in DM2 would be equally easy to implement and demonstrate similar benefits in people with RA.