Connection between Arthritis and Heart Disease
by Meredith Boyd
(Atlanta, Georgia USA)
Meredith Boyd, Mrs. Georgia International
(Photo Credit: Matt Boyd)
My story from the heart
In the fall of 1993, the dreaded phone call came at midnight. It was my oldest brother calling to bear the news that our father just had a massive heart attack and was thankfully in stable condition in the ICU after having emergency triple bypass surgery.
I immediately took the next flight to see him and, not knowing what to expect, I prayed the whole way there. I was stunned to see the devastating affects of heart disease right in front of my eyes.
It was a huge wake up call for our entire family as we all thought Dad was in good shape, watched his weight, exercised regularly and ate healthy.
The key is really watching the diet closely. Years of eating rich southern cooking took a toll on dad's heart, and we were shocked with the news. As I leaned in over the bed railing to kiss my dad on the forehead, he said, "Meredith, I love you. I need you to know that right now. I never had the chance to tell my father I loved him before he died from a heart attack."
Both my grandfather and my father had massive heart attacks at age 55. Heart disease is not a statistic. It's a disease that affects all of us in every community and may affect you. It can alter or damage your life, or even take it away.
Nine years later in 2003, Dad had yet another heart attack and this time had stent surgery to keep the other part of his heart functioning. We are so incredibly blessed he is still with us. Heart disease has changed my family's life and outlook on health altogether, which is why it's so important to protect our hearts.
In 2004, I experienced shortness of breath, heavy pressure in my chest and irregular heartbeats causing extreme coughing. After a series of tests I was diagnosed with heart arrhythmia. Knowing our family has a history of heart disease it's imperative to get routine check ups. Having battled rheumatoid arthritis since the age of 15, I was not expecting heart problems as well. The key is getting checked out and monitor these symptoms, and not ignoring them.
Research reveals that rheumatoid arthritis patients have a higher risk of early death, most likely due to cardiovascular disease.
Researchers believe that in rheumatoid arthritis patients, more than one factor is contributing to the association with heart disease, other than the traditional risk factors for heart disease. It has been theorized that rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease have a common origin, and that the systemic inflammation involved in rheumatoid arthritis might also promote cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular death.
As a spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation, I am called on to promote that rheumatoid arthritis patients must be vigilant about any cardiac symptoms they may experience, and seek prompt medical care because of the connection between arthritis and heart disease.
I became involved in the 9th Annual American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign as the emcee of the Woman 2 Woman Conference Luncheon at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis and special guest at the Go Red for Women/Red Dress Project. I was honored to share my personal experiences for healthier living as well as feature the "Faces of Cardiovascular Disease" women in Georgia who fought and triumphed over extraordinary circumstances of cardiovascular disease.
We are all in control of our health, take that control through education and awareness today and be well. Don't wait until it's too late to change your lifestyle. Heart disease is largely preventable: make the change today to give the gift of health to your family and loved ones.