Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center have published a clinical review that finds a consistent increase of cardiovascular disease in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The review appears April 23 on the front page of the British Medical Journal, a leading science journal. Journal articles serve to alert health providers to new medical information providers may use to help determine treatment for their patients.

The findings come from researchers summarizing the overall body of evidence accumulated over the last decade of cardiovascular disease in rheumatoid arthritis from a large number of independent studies. The studies range from in vitro and animal model studies to meta-analyses of large clinical trials and observational studies.

"The ‘take home message’ is that rheumatoid arthritis does not solely target the joints," said Bryant England, M.D., assistant professor, UNMC Division of Rheumatology & Immunology. "Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease with several mechanisms by which it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

He said because cardiovascular risk encompasses multiple mechanisms, health care providers need to implement a multi-faceted approach to prevent cardiovascular events in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

"This includes treating the rheumatoid arthritis aggressively, using medications that change the disease course of rheumatoid arthritis, smoking cessation efforts, managing traditional cardiovascular risk factors (diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol), limiting the use of medications linked to cardiovascular disease, and encouraging a healthy lifestyle (e.g. diet and exercise)," Dr. England said.