Traditional cardiovascular risk factors, inflammation and cardiovascular risk in rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2013 Jan;52(1):45-52. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/kes243. Epub 2012 Sep 16.


Multiple studies demonstrate an increased cardiovascular (CV) risk associated with RA compared with the general population. While part of this risk appears to be mediated by RA-specific factors, such as long-term inflammation, traditional CV comorbidities also play an important role. We review evidence from previous studies of the relationship between RA and traditional CV comorbidities such as dyslipidaemia, obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes, hypertension, cigarette smoking and physical inactivity. We examine the prevalence and consider the effect of inflammation and RA treatments on these risk factors. Finally, we discuss three widely used CV risk estimators, the Framingham Risk Score, Reynolds Risk Score and the Systematic Coronary Risk Evaluation, and their performance in patients with RA. The traditional CV risk factors that appear to differ significantly between RA cases and controls include insulin resistance, abnormal fat distribution, cigarette smoking and lack of physical activity. Dyslipidaemia, diabetes and hypertension may also be elevated in RA; however, the evidence is conflicting. Overall, we found that the majority of information regarding CV risk factors in RA stems from data collected as covariates for studies on CV disease. A gap in knowledge exists regarding detailed information on individual risk factors in RA, their prevalence and modifications that occur as a result of inflammation or treatment. More studies are needed to develop methods for accurate CV risk estimation in RA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / epidemiology
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology