A variety of systemic inflammatory rheumatic diseases associate with an increased risk of atherosclerotic events and premature cardiovascular (CV) disease. Although this recognition has stimulated intense basic science and clinical research, the precise nature of the relationship between local and systemic inflammation, their interactions with traditional CV risk factors, and their role in accelerating atherogenesis remains unresolved. The individual rheumatic diseases have both shared and unique attributes that might impact CV events. Understanding of the positive and negative influences of individual anti-inflammatory therapies remains rudimentary. Clinicians need to adopt an evidence-based approach to develop diagnostic techniques to identify those rheumatologic patients most at risk of CV disease and to develop effective treatment protocols. Development of optimal preventative and disease-modifying approaches for atherosclerosis in these patients will require close collaboration between basic scientists, CV specialists, and rheumatologists. This interface presents a complex, important, and exciting challenge.
Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Coronary artery disease; Inflammation; Rheumatic disease; Rheumatoid arthritis; Risk factors; Systemic lupus erythematosus.
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