Joints become red, swollen and painful. For people with gout, these are telltale signs of an attack. But research suggests gout patients should also watch for signs of another event – a heart attack.
Gout, the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, is caused by excess uric acid in the blood. The uric acid builds up into crystals, which lodge in the joints and kidneys, causing painful attacks and long-term damage. And now, research shows that the crystals can also lodge in the heart. There, they spark an inflammatory response, which can trigger a heart attack or stroke in an unsuspecting patient.
People who have both gout and cardiovascular disease have double the risk of a heart failure death as to people with cardiovascular disease alone, according to researchers at Duke University.
“The problem is that most people with gout don’t realize they are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke,” said Neha Pagidipati, MD, MPH. “We need to be aggressive about educating patients so they can take the right steps to lower their risk.”
Dr. Pagidipati recommends:
- Bringing blood pressure and cholesterol within normal range
- Ensuring that diabetes is well managed
- Quitting smoking.
Too often, people with gout try to tough out excruciating flares. But the cardiovascular ramifications of suffering uncontrolled gout in silence can be serious. In the United States, someone dies of cardiovascular disease every 36 seconds.
Though gout affects more than 9.2 million Americans, misconceptions about the disease persist. And stigma can cause delays in seeking care and treatment, allowing patients’ health to worsen while they wait.
As the U.S. acknowledges Heart Month this February, people living with gout have a fresh opportunity to talk with their health care provider about how to lower their uric acid level – and their heart disease risk.