Background: Because individuals with osteoarthritis (OA) avoid physical activities that exacerbate symptoms, potentially increasing risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death, we assessed the relationship between OA disability and these outcomes.
Methods: In a population cohort aged 55+ years with at least moderately severe symptomatic hip and/or knee OA, OA disability (Western Ontario McMaster Universities (WOMAC) OA scores; Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) walking score; use of walking aids) and other covariates were assessed by questionnaire. Survey data were linked to health administrative data to determine the relationship between baseline OA symptom severity to all-cause mortality and occurrence of a composite CVD outcome (acute myocardial infarction, coronary revascularization, heart failure, stroke or transient ischemic attack) over a median follow-up of 13.2 and 9.2 years, respectively.
Results: Of 2156 participants, 1,236 (57.3%) died and 822 (38.1%) experienced a CVD outcome during follow-up. Higher (worse) baseline WOMAC function scores and walking disability were independently associated with a higher all-cause mortality (adjusted hazard ratio, aHR, per 10-point increase in WOMAC function score 1.04, 95% confidence interval, CI 1.01-1.07, p = 0.004; aHR per unit increase in HAQ walking score 1.30, 95% CI 1.22-1.39, p<0.001; and aHR for those using versus not using a walking aid 1.51, 95% CI 1.34-1.70, p<0.001). In survival analysis, censoring on death, risk of our composite CVD outcome was also significantly and independently associated with greater baseline walking disability ((aHR for use of a walking aid = 1.27, 95% CI 1.10-1.47, p = 0.001; aHR per unit increase in HAQ walking score = 1.17, 95% CI 1.08-1.27, p<0.001).
Conclusions: Among individuals with hip and/or knee OA, severity of OA disability was associated with a significant increase in all-cause mortality and serious CVD events after controlling for multiple confounders. Research is needed to elucidate modifiable mechanisms.