Cardiovascular Risk Assessment and Therapeutic Implications in Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) suffer from a magnitude of excess cardiovascular risk. A paradoxical lipid pattern has been observed in rheumatoid arthritis patients where low levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. This paper aims to break down the evidence explaining why patients with low to normal LDL, and total cholesterol have such excess cardiovascular risk. A component of the enhanced cardiovascular risk is systemic inflammation and the subsequent pro-atherogenic dyslipidemia patterns. Due to this “lipid paradox,” current risk algorithms and guidelines designed for the general population may underestimate cardiovascular risk in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The purpose of this paper is to critically evaluate some of the discrepancies and layers of cardiovascular risk in RA patients, the role RA medication may have in mitigating or increasing cardiovascular risk, and the possible role of statin therapy.

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