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Silent Heart Attacks, Sudden Cardiac Deaths Common For RA Patients
Last review: 08/12/10
Those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have a higher risk of coronary heart disease; however, research has indicated silent, unrecognized heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths are also vastly common in RA patients.

In a study that compared two groups -- one group consisting of RA patients and the other of participants without the disease -- researchers found:
  • RA patients were three times more likely to have been hospitalized for an acute heart attack and five times more likely to have an unrecognized heart attack during the two years prior to diagnosis
  • Compared to participants without the disease, RA patients were less likely to have a history of chest pain
  • After being diagnosed, RA patients were twice as likely to have unrecognized heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths

    One possible explanation why RA patients experience unrecognized heart attacks is because there is so much pain in their joints and they are taking so many painkillers that they either don't feel the chest pains in the same way non-RA patients do, or they simply do not appreciate its importance.

    So What do These Discoveries Mean for RA Patients?

    According to the head researcher of the study, the findings offer key messages to patients suffering from RA:

  • Heart attack risk is already present at the time of diagnosis
  • Regular cardiac appointments and lowering traditional cardiac risk factors (i.e. minding blood pressure and cholesterol and not smoking) are essential, as heart disease can remain silent in RA patients
  • Heart disease can manifest in RA patients and surface, for the first time, as a cardiac sudden death

    Additionally, researchers found that while traditional cardiovascular risk factors such as elevated cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) are important they are less imperative for those with RA.

    Arthritis & Rheumatism February 3, 2005; 52(2): 402-411

    Medical News Today February 3, 2005


    Dr. Mercola's Comment:

    It is my guess that one of the primary reasons why there is an increased risk of cardiac deaths in RA is due to the fact that there is generally far more inflammation in the body when RA is active. CRP is well established as a primary risk factor for heart disease and is an outstanding way to measure inflammation in the body. It would seem obvious that if one reduces the inflammation the increased risk for heart disease would also drop.

    It seemed so obvious that most conventional doctors turned to popular anti-inflammatory painkiller drugs like Vioxx, Bextra and Celebrex, to treat this disease. The problem is that these drugs had side effects that were more potent than the anti-inflammatory benefit they provided. As a result, they actually increased the risk of heart attack and stroke.

    George Santayana was a Spanish-American poet and philosopher from the 1800s. His sage advice was that "those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them." I implore you to actively avoid repeating the mistakes that tens of thousands of individuals have made by choosing drugs as the solution for their problem. Over 50,000 people paid for that mistake with their life by choosing Vioxx. You don't have to repeat that error. Choose life, not death.

    Please remember that you do not need potentially deadly drugs to help fight RA, or most any disease. There are nearly always a variety of safe, natural options that will help you relieve the pain brought on by RA and help you maintain good health in the process:

    Natural Remedies to Relieve RA Symptoms and Protect Your Heart

    I consider individualizing your diet with metabolic typing principles to be an essential part of the solution for finding a permanent drug free answer to RA.

    Energy psychology tools like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) are also vital to use, because we rarely find someone with a serious autoimmune disease like RA who lack emotional wounds that have made major contributing impairments to the optimal functioning of their immune system. I highly recommend and encourage anyone with RA to obtain professional consultations to carefully resolve these problems.

    Another essential step is optimizing your nutrition by balancing your ratios of omega-3 and omega-6 fats by taking a high-quality fish or cod liver oil.

    Vitamin D levels also can play a role in avoiding or treating RA. I have many patients who are deficient in vitamin D. The best way to increase vitamin D levels is by getting more sun exposure. Please keep in mind that it is possible to overdose on vitamin D when taking it in supplement form so in order to ensure that you levels are within the optimal range, you should monitor your blood vitamin D levels.

    Start exercising!
    Also, for severe rheumatoid arthritis, I have found my revision of Dr. Brown's protocol useful in producing remission in more than 3,000 patients with RA I have cared for over the past several years. (You can read the testimony of one of these patients now.)

    Folks, if you know anyone with RA I urge you to plead with them to seek natural treatments, rather than drugs to address the underlying cause of the disease. Failure to do so could condemn them to a premature death and a potential lifetime of misery, as much of the damage of RA is irreversible once it has occurred. Once the joints are destroyed there is no way to bring them back.

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