Lupus Increases Heart Disease Risk
Women with the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have a more than two-fold increased risk of cardiovascular disease over women without the disease according to research funded in part by the Arthritis Foundation.
Using the Nurses’ Health Study cohort, investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston identified 8,169 cardiovascular events – fatal and nonfatal heart attack, stroke, coronary artery bypass surgery and angioplasty – that occurred among the 119,329 eligible women enrolled in the study. They also identified 148 women who developed SLE over the course of the 28-year study. The participants in this study were female nurses from across the U.S. and the mean age at onset of SLE was 53 years. Prior studies mainly examined rates of cardiovascular disease among younger women with more severe SLE, followed at academic medical centers.
After adjusting for confounding factors, including age, race, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, body mass index, physical exercise, smoking status and medication usage, the research team determined that women with SLE are at 2.25 times the risk for coronary heart disease and 2.29 the risk for stroke.
Arthritis Foundation grant recipient and lead scientist on this study, Karen H. Costenbader, MD, MPH, concludes, “We have confirmed that women with lupus, regardless of their age at disease onset, need to be particularly aware of their elevated cardiovascular risk. Modification of this risk however possible, through exercise, weight control, smoking cessation and cholesterol lowering, should be sought.”
Hak AE, et al. Systemic lupus erythematosus and risk of cardiovascular disease. Results from the Nurses’ Health Study. Abstract presented at American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting. San Francisco, October 25-29, 2008.