I’ve mentioned before that Rheumatoid Arthritis is a systemic disease. This means that it affects much more than just the joints. It affects major organ systems as well. Nowhere is this more clear than in the correlation between RA and incidences of heart disease.
Scientists are still unsure about why heart attacks occur more often in RA patients than in the general population. Some theorize that the use of steroids and NSAIDs in RA treatment plans are to blame, while others believe that the inflammation that is the hallmark of RA causes blood clots to form in the arteries. But no matter the cause, we all need to be aware of this very real risk and do whatever we can to minimize it.
We all know what a heart-healthy lifestyle consists of: a healthy diet high in fiber and protein and low in saturated fat and sodium; no smoking; regular exercise; maintaining a healthy weight. Some of these things are easier than others, especially when dealing with a disease like RA. Regular exercise is difficult when joints are stiff and painful. Staying at your optimal weight when on prednisone is next to impossible. It’s enough to make you feel sort of helpless and a little panicky when you stop to think about it.
But even at times when you can’t move well enough to leave the house or the steroids have you craving every piece of chocolate you can find, there’s a simple thing you can do.
Pick up your toothbrush.
A recent study has confirmed what scientists have long suspected about oral health care. People who don’t brush their teeth twice a day have a 70% higher risk of heart disease! While I haven’t found anything connecting that study with RA patients, common sense tells me that proper oral health care practices will help us as well.
Which is why lately, I’ve been paying much more attention to my teeth than I ever have before. I now brush two, sometimes three times a day, followed by flossing and using mouthwash. Flossing isn’t always easy when my hands and wrists are swollen and painful, but knowing that I’m doing more than cleaning my teeth makes it worth it to me. And having pretty pearly whites even when the rest of me doesn’t feel so pretty is an added bonus.
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.