Background: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with significant excess morbidity and mortality. Cardiovascular disease is the commonest cause of premature death in patients with RA. In recognition of this, blood pressure, weight, and smoking history are routinely ascertained in the clinic and appropriate advice and treatment started.
Aims: To ascertain if attending a specialist nurse, in addition to routine medical care, would increase the success in dealing with lifestyle variables in a cohort of patients with RA.
Methods: Twenty two consecutive patients starting treatment with the disease modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) sulfasalazine were invited to attend an additional clinic dealing with lifestyle factors every 12 weeks over a 48 week follow up. Smoking and alcohol history, baseline demographic and metrology assessments were determined for all patients. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated, blood pressure recorded, function assessed by the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ), and social deprivation determined by the Carstairs Index. Patients were advised on exercise and diet, and serum cholesterol was measured.
Results: Twenty women and two men, with a mean age of 52 years and mean disease duration of five years, were enrolled. Eight patients smoked and, unfortunately, none were persuaded to discontinue. Fifteen of the cohort were already taking regular exercise; one additional patient began swimming regularly. At baseline, 10 patients were found to have a high cholesterol, with a mean of 6.8 mmol/l. A 14% reduction in mean cholesterol was achieved by dietary modification, and three patients merited statin treatment. Obesity is a major problem in our population and 15 of the patients had grade I obesity with a mean BMI of 30.6; five of these gained a further 4.5 kg. Six patients with previously untreated hypertension were identified, but unfortunately five remained hypertensive and only two had received anti-hypertensive drugs.
Conclusions: Educating patients in order to change lifestyle habits and influence outcome is a long term challenge facing all healthcare workers. In our cohort, most adverse lifestyle factors had already been recognised and discussed by the general practitioner or at prior clinic visits. Additional advice and input led to only modest improvement.
Ann Rheum Dis 2002;61:66-69
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, progressive, debilitating condition which influences the physical, emotional, and social wellbeing of the patient and their family. Comorbidity has a significant effect on outcome. RA is associated with significant excess morbidity and mortality from infection, neoplasms, iatrogenic consequences of disease, and renal disease. (1-3) However, cardiovascular disease occurs in a similar proportion to that in the general population and is the commonest cause of premature death in patients with RA. Survival rates in RA have been shown to be comparable with those for Hodgkin's disease, triple vessel coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, and cerebrovascular disease. (4) Patients with RA have a life expectancy of between two and 18 years less than the general population, with death from cardiovascular disease consistently an important determinant of the excess mortality. (1 5 6) Traditional risk factors, such as smoking, hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, …