A Link Between Fibromyalgia and Heart Disease?
A recent study found that fibromyalgia patients may be at higher risk for cardiovascular disease in the future.
Study Design and Results
Scientists in Turkey noted the presence of some common features between fibromyalgia and cardiovascular risk factors (e.g. depression and sleep disturbance), which led them to question whether there could be a connection between the two. For this study, they evaluated mean platelet volume, which is a determinant of platelet activation and is a newly emerging independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
In a group of 283 FM patients and 72 healthy controls, the levels of mean platelet volume were found to be significantly higher in the fibromyalgia group than in the control group.
The researchers concluded, "These results suggest that an early atherosclerosis marker, mean platelet volume, is elevated in patients with fibromyalgia. This indicates increased platelet activation and therefore a higher risk of future cardiovascular disease."
There hasn’t been a great deal of research into a possible link between FM and heart disease. A very small study (14 FM patients and 14 healthy controls) looking into FM and cardiac abnormalities was conducted in 2011 in Brazil. That study found that FM patients had lower oxygen consumption (providing less oxygen to the heart), higher rates of chronotropic incompetence (an inability to raise the heart rate appropriately during exertion), and took longer to return to resting heart rates following exercise. They concluded that these results were "indicative of cardiac autonomic impairment and higher risk of cardiovascular events and mortality."
Although these studies are not enough to absolutely declare a link between fibromyalgia and heart disease, they are enough to alert us to the possibility that there could be a link. They are also enough to encourage us not to take symptoms of possible heart disease lightly.
Don’t just assume that a new chest pain is caused by your FM. If you have one or more of the symptoms of a heart attack, call 9-1-1 right away.
Learn the warning signs:
Haliloglu S., et al. "Mean platelet volume in patients with fibromyalgia." Zeitschrift fur Rheumatologie. February 2014.
da Cunha Ribeiro RP, et al. "Cardiac autonomic impairment and chronotropic incompetence in fibromyalgia." Arthritis Research & Therapy. 2011;13(6):R190.
Karen is the co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.