Suboptimal cardiovascular risk management in rheumatoid arthritis patients despite an explicit cardiovascular risk screening programme

Scand J Rheumatol. 2019 Sep;48(5):345-352. doi: 10.1080/03009742.2019.1600718. Epub 2019 Jun 18.


Objective: In 2011, we started to offer cardiovascular (CV) risk screening to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients with a high CV risk. After 1 year, we assessed whether patients labelled as high CV risk had started preventive treatment when indicated, and whether the CV risk score had changed. Methods: CV risk screening was performed in both a large outpatient rheumatology clinic and a general hospital in the Netherlands, and the general practitioner or the internist was informed about the results of the CV screening, including specific advice on the initiation or adjustment of cardiopreventive drugs. National guidelines were used to assess how many patients were eligible for preventive treatment. After 1 year, CV risk, lifestyle, and treatment were re-evaluated. Patients with a history of CV disease at baseline or who experienced a CV event during follow-up were excluded from the analyses. Results: A high 10 year CV risk (> 20%) was present in 58%, and 55% had an indication for anti-hypertensives, statins, or both. At follow-up, cardiopreventive drug treatment had been started or adjusted in only one-third of patients with an indication for treatment. After screening, 42% of patients reported having changed their lifestyle, through more exercise (24%), diet adaption (20%), and weight loss (11%). Conclusion: Despite clear guidelines to improve CV risk, the results of a programme comprising active screening, targeted advice, and referral to the general practitioner or internist prove that primary prevention remains a major challenge in high-risk RA patients.

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cause of Death / trends
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forecasting*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Management / methods*
  • Survival Rate / trends


  • Cardiovascular Agents