Background: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular (CV) disease. However, the individual impact of traditional CV risk factors in RA is unknown.
Objective: To assess the strength of the association between individual CV risk factors and rate of either myocardial infarction (MI), combined CV morbidity (MI, angina pectoris, heart failure, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease (PAD)) or CV mortality in RA patients.
Methods: RA studies reporting traditional CV risk factors [hypertension, type 2 diabetes (T2D), smoking, hypercholesterolaemia, obesity, and physical inactivity] as exposures and MI, CV morbidity (MI, angina, heart failure, stroke, and PAD combined) or CV mortality alone as outcomes were searched until March 2013 using MEDLINE, Scopus and Cochrane. Meta-analyses combined relative risk (RR) estimates from each study where either the RR and 95% confidence intervals or where raw counts were available.
Results: Ten studies reporting sufficient data for inclusion into meta-analyses were identified. Relevant data was available for each risk factor and MI and CV morbidity but no studies reported on CV mortality. Risk of MI increased in RA patients with hypertension (RR 1.84, 95% CI 1.38, 2.46) and T2D (RR 1.89, 95% CI 1.36, 2.63). CV morbidity increased with hypertension (RR 2.24, 95% CI 1.42, 3.06), T2D (RR 1.94, 95% CI 1.58, 2.30), smoking (RR 1.50, 95% CI 1.15, 1.84), hypercholesterolaemia (RR 1.73, 95% CI 1.03, 2.44) and obesity (RR 1.16, 95% CI 1.03, 1.29) but not with physical inactivity (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.71, 1.29).
Conclusion: Hypertension, T2D, smoking, hypercholesterolaemia and obesity increased CV risk in patients with RA. These results highlight the importance of managing CV risk factors in RA, similarly to non-RA patients.