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Rheumatism: Increased risk of heart attacks and strokes


Preventive examinations for rheumatism

Around 20 million people in Germany suffer from rheumatic disease. According to experts, rheumatism patients have an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke. Those affected are therefore advised to undergo regular preventive examinations.

According to an older announcement by the German Society for Rheumatology (DGRh), rheumatism patients are up to 70 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack. The risk of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases is also increased in people with rheumatism. Therefore, the German Heart Foundation advises regular examinations with cardiologists.

Heart and vessels also affected

As the Heart Foundation explains in a recent announcement, rheumatism is an inflammatory event that can affect not only the musculoskeletal system, but also the heart and vessels. Symptoms such as pain in joints or soft tissues are at the forefront of inflammatory rheumatic diseases.

"However, accompanying diseases of the heart and blood vessels occur more frequently in people with inflammatory rheumatic diseases than in otherwise healthy people," emphasizes Prof. Dr. med. Udo Sechtem from the Scientific Advisory Board of the German Heart Foundation.

Rheumatism patients have an increased risk of inflammatory activities also in the walls of the blood vessels, they tend to calcify the walls of the vessels (arteriosclerosis or arterial calcification). According to the experts, this can result in vascular complications, including heart attacks and strokes.

"Anyone suffering from rheumatism should therefore have regular preventive check-ups," recommends the cardiac specialist at the Cardiologicum Stuttgart. At least every five years for cardiac screening, patients with rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis (ankylosing spondylitis) or psoriatic arthritis should also be recommended by the "European League against Rheumatic Diseases" (EULAR).

20 million Germans suffer from rheumatism

According to the Heart Foundation, around 20 million people in Germany suffer from rheumatic disease. The risk of rheumatism patients suffering from cardiovascular disease corresponds to that of a person with diabetes mellitus (diabetes) or that of a person ten years older without rheumatism. Heart failure (heart failure) occurs twice as often in older patients with rheumatoid arthritis than in people of the same age without rheumatism.

If there are new symptoms, see a doctor

According to experts, the arteries that supply the heart muscle with oxygen and nutrients (coronary arteries) can be affected by arteriosclerosis. "If there is also a rheumatic disease, arteriosclerosis accelerates, deposits in the vessels, called plaques, threaten to rip open more quickly and lead to catastrophes such as heart attacks or strokes."

This risk increases especially if those affected also have high blood lipids (cholesterol), high blood pressure, diabetes or overweight. Particular caution is advised when rheumatism patients perceive new symptoms: "Chest pain or shortness of breath during exercise, which had previously been coped with without any problems, should be taken seriously and immediately consult a doctor," warned Prof. Sechtem.

Healthy lifestyle of particular importance

So that patients with inflammatory rheumatic diseases do not even have heart and vascular complications, including heart attacks, strokes and heart weakness, “preventative care must be given an even higher priority than before,” emphasizes the Stuttgart cardiologist.

The precautionary measures include a laboratory examination and an ultrasound examination of the heart and the vessels, as well as an EKG as well as imaging methods for determining cardiac circulatory disorders and deposits in the vessels (CT, MRI). With larger changes in rheumatism therapy, it is also advisable to check the cardiovascular risk.

In addition to the medicinal treatment of inflammatory disease activity and the setting of risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, refraining from smoking and regular exercise is of particular importance: “It can also be regular work in the allotment garden if you do it correctly is active. Or you can walk around at a brisk pace for about 30 minutes every day, ”says Sechtem.

The problem with drug treatment is that some rheumatism medicines increase the cardiovascular risk when taken for a long time - a factor that, according to the DGRh, must be taken into account especially for patients with previous cardiovascular diseases. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


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