Inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can have a negative impact on the heart and heart health
Additionally, common comorbid conditions like cytomegalovirus may also pose a threat. Continue reading to learn more about how RA can affect the heart and how to include good RA heart health strategies as part of your RA treatment plan.
Inflammation of the Heart
Besides the joints, RA Warriors find the lungs and the heart as the second most common parts of the body that are affected by this condition. Regarding the heart, the inflammation affects the lining of the vessel wall as well as causing arteriosclerosis.
Studies have shown there is more plaque build-up in people battling RA, which leads to arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosisis the thickening and hardening of the artery walls — it is typical in old age.
It is still not clear whether the RA inflammation directly causes this type of plaque build-up or whether the stress of having RA is a contributing factor.
Predisposition to Cytomegalovirus
Studies and observations have shown there is a strong connection between RA and cytomegalovirus (CMV) impacting the heart. CMV is an incredibly common type of herpes virus. In fact, the Center for Disease Control estimates that over half of all adults in the United States will be infected with CMV by the time they are 40.
For many people, the virus does not present symptoms. However, CMV can manifest symptoms in people with weakened immune systems. The virus has a higher chance of full manifestation in RA Warriors.
For Women—Estrogen, Menopause, and Heart Health
Women that experience menopause before the age of 45 are more prone to heart problems. This is because the body’s estrogen levels are reduced following menopause.
The complex relationship between estrogen depletion and heart disease risk is still unclear to the medical community. Strategies such as hormone replacement therapy are not universally beneficial. A study found that postmenopausal hormone therapy could reduce the risk of some types of RA development, but not others.
Estrogen Replacement and Cardiovascular Health
Although there are hormone replacement therapies readily available, estrogen supplementation might also increase the risk of blood clots if used long-term. There are ways to increase phytoestrogens in the diet. Foods that contain a fair amount of estrogen and are heart healthy are:
- Soy milk
- Mung bean and alfalfa sprouts
- Dried prunes and dates
Stress and Anxiety
Another reason that RA Warriors have the high potential for heart disease—having this condition can be stressful. Stress and anxiety can have powerful effects on the heart and cardiovascular system. The good news about stress and anxiety is that it can be managed.
Talking to a medical team about how to manage anxiety is a great step to take for heart disease prevention. Keeping up-to-date on new therapies, techniques, etc, to manage stress is an essential strategy for heart health as an RA Warrior. The most pertinent thing to do for heart disease prevention is adding cardiovascular screenings to a treatments strategy and RA management.
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