Older Women With Gout At Greater Risk of Heart Attack

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Researchers have found that elderly women with gout, a common inflammation of the joints, are at a greater risk of heart attack than men with the disease. The study will be published online February 8, 2010 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Gout is known to increase the risk of heart attack in men, but this study is the first to link the impact of gout on women’s cardiovascular health.

The authors of the study base their findings on a population study using the Canadian British Columbia Linked Health Database of more than 9600 gout patients, aged 65 and older. The cardiovascular health of the participants was tracked for an average of seven years, during which time 3268 heart attacks occurred – just under a third being women.

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The women with gout were 39% more likely to have a heart attack compared to data from women who did not have the condition, even when controlling for such factors as age, co-existing health problems, and the use of prescription drugs. The risks were significantly higher among women than men. Men with gout were only 11% more likely to have a heart attack.

Inflammation from gout is a result of excess uric acid deposits which crystallizes in the joints and surrounding tissue. Uric acid not only increases the level of inflammation in the body which can promote atherogenesis and thrombogenesis, but also may increase platelet stickiness. Serum uric acid levels are typically higher in men, but start increasing in women around menopause.

Obesity, weight gain, high alcohol intake, high blood pressure, poorly functioning kidneys, certain drugs, and a diet high in purine call all precipitate the development of gout. Treatment includes a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) when symptoms begin and a prescription medication called colchicine to help decrease uric acid levels and reduce pain, swelling and inflammation.

Certain diet and lifestyle changes may also prevent gouty attacks. Avoidance of foods high in purines can reduce uric acid. These include meats (particularly organ meats), gravies, canned fish such as anchovies and sardines, brewer’s and baking yeast, and certain vegetables. Decreasing fat and alcohol intake can also help.

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