The Link Between Autoimmune Disease and Heart Health
February is American Heart Month making this the perfect time to raise awareness about heart health and its surprising link with autoimmune disease.
If you or someone you know is living with a chronic condition such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Lupus, or Crohn’s Disease, it’s time to learn about your risk for heart disease and how you can help keep your heart healthy.
The Effects of Autoimmune Diseases on Heart Health
Although autoimmune diseases don’t directly target the cardiovascular system, research has shown that chronic disease patients have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
In a recent study, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis studied mice that had a condition similar to Psoriasis and noticed the mice’s arteries were stiff.
The hardened arteries caused cholesterol to accumulate within the artery walls resulting in plaque buildup that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
However, not all autoimmune diseases carry the same heart risk. For example, one study reported that the likelihood of suffering a heart attack increased by more than 50 times in people diagnosed with Lupus while patients with Psoriasis were up to 8 times more likely to suffer a heart attack compared to individuals without the disease. Crohn’s disease appears to have the lowest cardiovascular impact with increases in the risk of heart disease by 6% over 11 years. Cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of death for young and middle-aged adults with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Autoimmune diseases represent a broad spectrum of chronic conditions. Each condition may afflict a specific organ or multiple systems. However, they all create a burden on quality of life.
Autoimmune diseases have one underlining commonality, they all cause the body to attack itself by causing the immune system to mistakenly identify healthy cells, tissues, and organs as foreign invaders.
The immune system’s response results in inflammation as an attempt at self protection.
Severe, chronic inflammation is one of the primary factors that can lead to cardiovascular disease, and therefore patients with autoimmune diseases have both a higher risk of developing heart disease as well as potentially more serious outcomes from cardiovascular events such as a heart attack or stroke.
Ways to Take Control of Your Heart Health
While having an autoimmune disease can raise the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, there are ways to reduce these risks.
- Don’t Smoke: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. If you are a smoker, speak to your physician about the best ways to quit smoking.
- Manage Your Condition: Work with your doctors to create a personalized disease management plan that may include biologic infusion therapy, which could help reduce the number and intensity of flareup symptoms.
- Make Heart-Healthy Dietary Changes: Eating healthier can help you prevent heart disease. Cut out foods with high levels of trans-fat or saturated fat. Additionally, lower the amount of sugar and sodium you consume.
- Stay Active: Mobility can be an issue for patients with certain autoimmune diseases, however, staying active provides many benefits, including improved balance and joint stability. Try to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. If you have trouble completing a 30-minute exercise session, try breaking it into 10-minute sessions three times a day.
At Altus Infusion, we believe that a comprehensive approach to disease management offers the best results. Biologic infusion drugs can significantly improve the symptoms and lower the rate of inflammation, which can have a positive effect on a patient’s heart health.
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Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. Any content regarding symptoms and possible treatment of illnesses is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Altus Infusion does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the information published in its blog and will not be held responsible for the content of any blog publication.
You should always consult your primary care physician for specific medical advice.