THURSDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- People with rheumatoid
arthritis (RA) are at increased risk for a heart rhythm disorder
called atrial fibrillation, a new study finds.
The research involved more than 4 million people, including more
than 18,000 with RA, in Denmark, who were followed for an average
of five years.
During that time, people with RA had a nearly 40 percent
increased risk of atrial fibrillation compared to those in the
general population -- 8.2 events per 1,000 person years for those
with RA and six events per 1,000 person years for the general
population. That works out to one new case of atrial fibrillation
per 12 RA patients followed for 10 years after diagnosis.
Among RA patients, women had a slightly higher risk of atrial
fibrillation than men, according to the study published online
March 8 on
The researchers also found that people with RA had a more than
30 percent higher risk of stroke than those in the general
population -- 7.6 events per 1,000 person years for those with RA
and 5.7 events per 1,000 person years for the general
Previous research has linked RA to an increased risk of heart
attacks, heart failure and stroke. This study finds that RA is also
associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, which is
associated with greater long-term risk of heart failure, stroke and
New guidelines recommend that patients with RA should undergo
annual screening for cardiovascular risk factors, and this should
include screening for atrial fibrillation, the researchers from
Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte said in a journal
The researchers also noted that since inflammation plays a role
in the development of atrial fibrillation and stroke, inflammation
control is important for people with RA not only to alleviate joint
symptoms, but also to reduce the need for drugs that may adversely
impact heart health.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has more about