The number of cardiac deaths involving patients with rheumatoid arthritis is decreasing, a study revealed.

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are twice more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases than the average person because of RA-related inflammation, experts said, but efforts to prevent heart diseases as well as early treatment and diagnosis have contributed to the decline in mortality rate.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic examined two groups of people who were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and the occurrence of heart disease-related deaths within 10 years of diagnosis.

The first group involved 315 patients who were diagnosed between 2000 and 2007, while the second group involved 498 patients who were diagnosed in the 1980s and 1990s.

The study found that death rates that involved patients with rheumatoid arthritis in the first group have been significantly reduced to 2.8 percent, while death rates in the second group were reduced to 7.9 percent.

In addition, experts analyzed data that included people who died due to heart diseases but were not diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Most of the patients were women with an average age of 60 years old.

The number of deaths involving coronary artery disease dropped, researchers said. Among the first group who was diagnosed between 2000 and 2007, about 1.2 percent died due to coronary artery disease, while in the second group, about 4.7 percent died due to the disease.

Dr. Elena Myasoedova, lead author of the study, believes that further research should be done to confirm why cardiac deaths among patients with rheumatoid arthritis have dropped, but factors such as improved treatment for rheumatoid and cardiovascular diseases, early screening for heart problems and more attention to the heart health of patients have indeed influenced the drop.

Rheumatoid arthritis heightens the risk for heart disease when RA-related inflammation affects the blood vessels and leads to the formation of plaque which can reduce blood flow and block arteries. Pieces of the plaque can break off into the bloodstream, clog blood vessels and cause stroke or heart attack, experts said.

Meanwhile, the study was issued as Decreased Cardiovascular Mortality in Patients with Incident Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) in Recent Years: Dawn of a New Era in Cardiovascular Disease in RA? and was presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in San Francisco, California.

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