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Rheumatoid factor is a risk factor for heart disease in men
Scientists have found that a product of white blood cells linked to rheumatoid arthritis could cause heart disease in men.
Rheumatoid factor is present in up to 15% of adults in the UK. Although
it's produced by the immune system, it may be responsible for damage to
the body's own cells.
The results came from a study of more than 1000 people, born between
1931 and 1937 in Hertfordshire. Dr Christopher Edwards of the MRC
Epidemiology Resource Centre who led the analysis of results from the
Hertfordshire Cohort Study explained:
Rheumatoid factor is an autoantibody. Antibodies are usually made by
the immune system to help protect the body. An autoantibody is one that
matches to a target within the body itself, this self-destruction is
known as autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases generate inflammation
that in turn cause diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. In total 567 men
and 589 women participated in the research. All provided blood samples
to test for the presence of the rheumatoid factor autoantibody. Each
individual's health history and traditional risk factors for heart
disease were assessed.
The study results, published in the journal Heart,
clearly suggest that rheumatoid factor is a risk factor for heart
disease in men, independent of other known risk factors like smoking,
diabetes and high blood pressure. The discovery also raises the
possibility that the body's own immune system might play a role in
development of heart disease through rheumatoid factor. Future research
on a larger scale will aim to confirm that rheumatoid factor is a cause
of heart disease.
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