In the past five decades, the country overall has seen an upward trend in people living longer. But it seems that for all the advances in Rheumatoid Arthritis drugs and treatments, there have been no improvements in lifespan for people with RA. New research published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism has found that despite much improved treatments for RA over the last 40 years, people with RA still tend to die at a younger age than the general population. In fact, the gap in the difference between survival rates for RA patients and the general population have widened.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic conducted a longitudinal study of the medical records of Minnesotans with RA over 5 decades: 1955-1964, 1965-1974, 1975-1984, 1985-1994 and 1995-2000. Because of the multiple time periods studied, the cases were pooled statistically.
They found that between 1965 and 2005 the mortality rates for patients with the condition were relatively constant at 2.4 for females and 2.5 for males per 100-person years. However, the mortality rates of the general population decreased over the same period. The rates went from 1.0 per 100 person-years in 1965 to 0.2 per 100 person-years for women and from 1.2 per 100-person years to 0.3 per 100-person years for men.
In their discussion of the findings, the researchers noted that in 2002 the life expectancy at birth for the whole U.S. population was 77.4 years. That's 9.2 years longer than people were expected to live in 1950. The study states that this increase in survival has been largely due to declines in cardiovascular related deaths and unintentional injury. They hypothesized that since cardiovascular deaths constitute at least half of the deaths in people with RA, perhaps improvement over time in cardiovascular care and interventions has not had the same beneficial effect on patients with RA as the general population. The researchers concluded that the study's findings demonstrate the need to understand the determinants and implications of these findings, and to develop appropriate intervention strategies to reduce this widening mortality gap.
What can we do about it?
While this study may raise more questions and concerns than it does answers for those suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis, there are a couple of lessons that we can take away from this study.
First, it is important to remember that Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic and progressive condition that can do damage beyond the body's joints. Unlike other forms of arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and can harm other areas of the body.
Therefore, when thinking about treating and managing RA it is important to remember that treatment is not just about alleviating pain, swelling and stiffness; it is also about preventing other conditions from developing.
Second, other studies have found that people with Rheumatoid Arthritis have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than people without RA. Inflammation, a hallmark of Rheumatoid Arthritis, is associated with cardiovascular disease risk, meaning RA sufferers need to more vigilant about reducing the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and getting screened early and often for heart disease.
Published On: November 08, 2007