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Living Well with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

There are various lifestyle factors that can help those living with Rheumatoid Arthritis increase their cardiovascular health. Keep reading to learn about some of these factors!

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has been known to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), so heart health is an important part of living well with RA.

A few simple lifestyle adjustments can help. Check out some suggestions below.

Mental health

Take a breath. RA can take a toll on your mental wellbeing and there is a clear link between mental health and risk factors for heart disease. Luckily, practices like meditation and even just deep breathing can help reduce your body’s stress.ii,iii

Exercise/body movement

Let’s get moving! Joint-friendly physical activity can help improve arthritis pain, physical function, mood, and overall quality of life.iv Low-impact activities like biking and swimming can also help reduce disease-related exhaustionv.

Smoking cessation

Butt out. RA patients who stop smoking experience improved RA disease activity and a lower frequency of CVD events such as heart attack and stroke.vi

Exhaustion and fatigue

Rest! Rest! Rest! Studies show that more than 50% of people living with RA have high levels of fatiguevii. The good news is, getting in a good sleep ritual can help reduce pain and fatigueviii and may help prevent damage to the cardiovascular systemix.

Heart-healthy foods

Let’s eat! Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, walnuts, flaxseed) and whole grains (oats, brown rice, quinoa) contain nutrients that are both heart healthy and help fight the inflammation associated with RAx, so let’s dig in!


ii https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2255#:~:text=Breathing%20exe....

iii https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2255#:~:text=Breathing%20exe....

iv https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/physical-activity-overview.html

v InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Exercise and sports for rheumatoid arthritis. [Updated 2020 May 20]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK384465/

vi Ida K Roelsgaard, Eirik Ikdahl, Silvia Rollefstad, Grunde Wibetoe, Bente A Esbensen, George D Kitas, Piet van Riel, Sherine Gabriel, Tore K Kvien, Karen Douglas, Solveig Wållberg-Jonsson, Solbritt Rantapää Dahlqvist, George Karpouzas, Patrick H Dessein, Linda Tsang, Hani El-Gabalawy, Carol A Hitchon, Virginia Pascual-Ramos, Irazú Contreras-Yáñez, Petros P Sfikakis, Miguel A González-Gay, Cynthia S Crowson, Anne Grete Semb, Smoking cessation is associated with lower disease activity and predicts cardiovascular risk reduction in rheumatoid arthritis patients, Rheumatology, Volume 59, Issue 8, August 2020, Pages 1997–2004, https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/kez557

vii http://blog.arthritis.org/rheumatoid-arthritis/fighting-ra-fatigue/#:~:t....

viii http://blog.arthritis.org/rheumatoid-arthritis/fighting-ra-fatigue/#:~:t....

ix https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-deprivation/how-sleep-deprivation-...

x https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/treatment/treatment-plan/track...