Cardiovascular Deaths Declining in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis

In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, deaths from cardiovascular disease have dropped drastically in the last two decades and are now comparable to the general population.

Deaths from cardiovascular disease in people with rheumatoid arthritis are declining, according to research presented at the American College of Rheumatology’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared with the general population, but this research shows that efforts to prevent and treat it early in those with rheumatoid arthritis may be paying off.

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Elena Myasoedova, MD, PhD, DMedSc, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and colleagues examined 813 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who had been diagnosed in three separate decades: 1980-1989, 1990-1999, and 2000-2007, along with 813 corresponding groups of controls without rheumatoid arthritis. The average age of the participants was 55.9 years, and 68% were female.

They found that in participants diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the 2000-2007 period who had lived with the disease for 10 years, their rate of death from cardiovascular disease was 2.8%, lower than the rate of those diagnosed in 1990-1991 at 7.9%, and much lower than the rate of those diagnosed from 1980-1989 at 13.9%.

Most notably, participants diagnosed in 2000-2007 had similar rates of death from cardiovascular disease as the control group without rheumatoid arthritis: 2.8% compared with 3.3% respectively.

The researchers also found that deaths specifically from coronary artery disease declined. Of the participants diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1980-1989, 7.8% died from coronary artery disease 10 years after being diagnosed. This number decreased to 4.7% for participants diagnosed in 1990-1999, and to 1.2% in participants diagnosed in 2000-2007. This is comparable to a rate of 1.3% in the control group.

“More research is needed to confirm why heart disease deaths among rheumatoid arthritis patients have declined, but potential factors include earlier and more vigilant screening for heart problems, improved treatment for heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and in general, more attention to heart health in patients with rheumatoid arthritis,” said Dr. Myasoedova in a press release.


Myasoedova E, Crowson CS, Matteson EL, et al. Abstract # 3237. Decreased Cardiovascular Mortality in Patients with Incident Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) in Recent Years: Dawn of a New Era in Cardiovascular Disease in RA? Presented at: 2015 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting. Nov. 6-11. San Francisco, California.