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Men With Inflammatory Marker Have Three Times Higher Risk Of Heart Disease
June 5, 2007
Men whose blood tests positive for the auto-antibody rheumatoid factor
have a three times higher risk of heart disease, according to a study
published online ahead of print in Heart .
This increased risk was similar to that found for the well-known risk
factors of diabetes (2.5 times) and high blood pressure (4.4 times).
However, rheumatoid factor was not found to increase the risk of heart
disease in women.
The findings add more weight to the growing evidence that inflammation
is implicated in atherosclerosis - a hardening of the arteries, when
fats are deposited in the artery walls. It also raises the possibility
that auto-immune processes and rheumatoid factor in particular may
actually have a role in the disease process itself.
This build up of fatty deposits reduces blood supply to the heart
(known as ischaemic heart disease) leading to angina and an increased
risk of heart attack.
Rheumatoid factor is an auto-antibody present in up to 15% of adults
and is strongly associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic
inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, have been shown
previously to increase the risk of ischaemic heart disease. However,
the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis in men in the UK is only about
0.4 per cent, so rheumatoid factor therefore seems to be an independent
risk factor in men. Rheumatoid factor can be measured by a simple blood
test available in all hospitals.
The study involved 567 men and 589 women born in Hertfordshire between
1931 and 1937 who were assessed for a history of ischaemic heart
disease, rheumatoid factor and traditional risk factors for heart
disease. They were also assessed for other common auto-antibodies
(antinuclear antibodies and anticardiolipin antibodies), but no link to
increased risk of ischaemic heart disease was found.
Another inflammatory marker C-reactive protein has also
been linked to the development of ischaemic heart disease in previous
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