London: Rheumatoid arthritis can take a toll on your life, for researchers claim that people suffering from the ailment are likely to develop heart problems and stroke.
A new study, published in the `British Medical Journal`, says that people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis have a 40 per cent higher risk of suffering from an irregular heartbeat
which can lead to heart attacks and even death.
The sufferers are also at 30 per cent greater risk from suffering strokes, the `Daily Mail` reported.
This is because the inflammation of joints that occurs in arthritis may cause the heart to beat irregularly, a condition known as atrial fibrillation. This could lead to formation of
blood clots which in turn can trigger stroke, the study says.
For their study, the researchers from Copenhagen University studied more than 4 million people of whom 18,250 had rheumatoid arthritis over a period of five years. Those
with rheumatoid arthritis were 40 per cent at higher risk of atrial fibrillation and 30 per cent higher risk of strokes than the general public, the findings revealed.
Although this seems like a big increase, the overall risk still of having heart problems or strokes still remains low, say the researchers.
In a group of 1,000 normal patients, six would likely suffer from atrial fibrillation in any given year while 5.7 would be likely to have a stroke. But amongst a group of 1,000
rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, 8 would be expected to have atrial fibrillation while 7.6 would be likely to have stroke.
However the researchers point out that doctors need to be aware of these heightened risks amongst their patients.
Prof Michael Ehrenstein of Arthritis Research UK said: "Inflammation plays a central role in rheumatoid arthritis and in the disease process of many other related conditions,
so it`s not surprising that it may also play a role in the development of atrial fibrillation."
Rheumatoid arthritis tends to strike between the ages of 40 and 70 and is more common amongst women than men. It happens when the body`s immune system attacks the cells lining the joints making them swollen, stiff and very painful.