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Study Shows Connection Between Rheumatoid Arthritis, Heart Disease

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- New Mayo Clinic studies are shedding light on the connection between rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease risk.

Those with rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic inflammatory conditons are at higher risk, according to studies presented at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting. Early menopause and immunity to a common virus, cytomegalovirus, are among factors that put patients in greater jeopardy.

One's risk of developing heart disease doubles with rheumatoid arthritis, though Dr. Eric Matteson, head of rheumatology at Mayo, said they are unsure of exactly why there is a correlation.

The link could be attributed to medication, blood vessel infections, or due to the fact that arthritis patients typically become less mobile.

"Cells and proteins responsible for inflammation actually irritate the lining of blood vessels, and this irritation of the blood vessels causes the accelerated risk or the increase risk of heart disease," Matteson said.

Patients with more severe rheumatoid arthritis are also likelier to have cardiovascular disease. Females who have had multiple children, especially seven or more, are also at higher risk.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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