People with Autoimmune Disease at Higher Risk for Complications after Heart Attack, Study Finds

A new study from Cleveland Clinic found people with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, have a higher complication rate after a heart attack.

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CLEVELAND – A new Cleveland Clinic study found people with autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, have a higher complication rate after a heart attack.

“It was one of the largest studies that looked at patients who have suffered from heart attacks, that have conditions that we define as autoimmune conditions, compared to patients who do not have autoimmune conditions,” explained Heba Wassif, MD, cardiology specialist for Cleveland Clinic and one of the authors on the study.

Dr. Wassif said more than 1.6 million adults, ages 65 years and older were involved.

The results showed those with an autoimmune disease were more likely to die, develop heart failure or have a second heart attack.

They were also less likely to receive common procedures to restore blood flow after a heart attack, which could be because they are at higher risk for procedure-related complications.

Dr. Wassif said they don’t want these results to scare the public. However, it is important for those with an autoimmune disease to take proactive steps to help prevent heart disease.

“There was a survey that surveyed primary care providers and to my surprise, many primary care providers were not familiar or comfortable discussing the risk with their patients and many patients were not aware of the increased risk of cardiovascular disease. So, there is room for education and prevention,” she noted.

Dr. Wassif said more research is needed to further understand why this group is at higher risk for complications.

However, it could be possible that they are more likely to have co-morbidities, which could play a role.

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