Objective: Differences in lipid levels associated with cardiovascular (CV) risk between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and the general population remain unclear. Determining these differences is important in understanding the role of lipids in CV risk in RA.
Methods: We studied 2,005 RA subjects from 2 large academic medical centers. We extracted electronic medical record data on the first low-density lipoprotein (LDL) measurement, and total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) measurements within 1 year of the LDL measurement. Subjects with an electronic statin prescription prior to the first LDL measurement were excluded. We compared lipid levels in RA patients to recently published levels from the general US population using the t-test and stratifying by published parameters, i.e., 2007-2010, and women. We determined lipid trends using separate linear regression models for total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol, testing the association between year of measurement (1989-2010) and lipid level, adjusted by age and sex. Lipid trends in RA were qualitatively compared to the published general population trends.
Results: Women with RA had a significantly lower total cholesterol (186 versus 200 mg/dl; P = 0.002) and LDL cholesterol (105 versus 118 mg/dl; P = 0.001) compared to the general population (2007-2010). HDL cholesterol was not significantly different in the 2 groups. In the RA cohort, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol significantly decreased each year, while HDL cholesterol increased (all with P < 0.0001), consistent with overall trends observed in a previous study.
Conclusion: RA patients appear to have an overall lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol than the general population despite the general overall risk of CV disease in RA from observational studies.
Copyright © 2013 by the American College of Rheumatology.