Rheumatoid arthritis patients are 50% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, partly because body-wide inflammation affects the blood vessel lining too, according to Eric L Matteson, chair of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic in the United States.
Furthermore, certain rheumatoid arthritis drugs, such as NSAIDs and corticosteroids, can also contribute to cardiovascular disease risk. Thankfully, there are some things rheumatoid arthritis patients can do to protect their hearts...
Three tips for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers to prevent cardiovascular disease
#1: Follow a Mediterranean diet
“There’s no specific rheumatoid arthritis
diet”, says Guy Fiocco, assistant professor of internal medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in the United States. However, one Swedish study published in 2003 found that a Mediterranean diet – abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats such as olive oil – reduced inflammation and promoted physical function in people with rheumatoid arthritis. This kind of diet is a win-win, since it’s been shown to help fight off cardiovascular disease, too.
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#2: Take a daily fish oil supplement
In addition to a Mediterranean diet, Matteson recommends taking 1,000 mg fish oil
two or three times per day. “Not only does it have a small effect on reducing inflammation, but it’s also good for managing blood fat
,” he says. You can get this either in readily available fish oil supplements or by consuming fish rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, such as salmon. Just make sure you consult your doctor before taking supplements, especially if you’re on medication like blood thinners.
#3: Stop smoking!
Smoking is bad for everyone’s health, but it’s extra bad for people with rheumatoid arthritis. “Smoking seems to trigger immune system
reactions and, in the long run, is associated with an increased risk for getting rheumatoid arthritis and having worse rheumatoid arthritis,” Matteson explains. One recent study found that rheumatoid arthritis patients who smoked had more active disease than their non-smoking peers. Another study found that heavy smokers had an increased risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis in the first place.
Those are our top three tips for preventing cardiovascular disease if you have rheumatoid arthritis!
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