Background: Rheumatic disease and heart disease share common underpinnings involving inflammation. The high levels of inflammation that characterize rheumatic diseases provide a "natural experiment" to help elucidate the mechanisms by which inflammation accelerates heart disease. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common of the rheumatic diseases and has the best studied relationships with heart disease.
Methods: A review of current literature on heart disease and RA was conducted.
Results: Patients with RA have an increased risk of developing heart disease that is not fully explained by traditional cardiovascular risk factors. Therapies used to treat RA may also affect the development of heart disease; by suppressing inflammation, they may also reduce the risk of heart disease. However, their other effects, as in the case of steroids, may increase heart disease risk.
Conclusions: Investigations of the innate and adaptive immune responses occurring in RA may delineate novel mechanisms in the pathogenesis of heart disease and help identify novel therapeutic targets for the prevention and treatment of heart disease.
© 2013 Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.