Rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease connection

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

ROCHESTER, Minnesota (WPVI) -- Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis affect millions of Americans.

They are auto-immune diseases which typically attack the small joints in your hands and feet.

Doctors say the focus can't just be on the joints, but also preventing some other unexpected problems.

A recent study from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine found higher rates of heart and vascular disease among R-A & Ps-A sufferers.

It could be that the same protein that causes inflammation in the joints also takes a toll on the heart and arteries.

OR the culprit could be the steroids many patients take to control the inflammation.

Until the cause is determined, R-A and Ps-A patients should practice heart-healthy habits.

Dr. John Davis, a rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic, says, "Initiating blood pressure control, lifestyle modification, certainly smoking cessation is very important, control of cholesterol."

Elizabeth O'Byrne, who had has R-A for more than 15 years, says she's on board with the advice.

"I'm starting to eat more fruit and vegetables, You know, so I am trying to make lifestyle changes," she says.

And lifestyle changes, like a healthy diet and exercise, can also help keep weight down, which helps the body overall, including the joints.