In America, heart disease is the leading cause of death among adults, and stroke (another cardiovascular disease) is one of the top five causes of death.
Although certain lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of cardiovascular events, genetics also play a large role in determining your risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke. This is also true for certain health conditions. A new study shows that gout, a common form of arthritis, may be associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart attack.
Gout flare-ups are linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke for some time after the flare-up, according to UK-based research published in the American Medical Association’s JAMA journal.
The study followed 62,574 people with gout and found that “patients who had a heart attack or stroke were twice as likely to have had a gout flare in the 60 days prior to [cardiovascular] event, and one and a half times more likely to have had a gout flare in the previous 61 to 120 days.
This means that if you experience a gout flare, there is an increased risk of cardiovascular events within four months of the event.
“People with gout tend to have more cardiovascular risk factors,” according to the research. Additionally, the study indicated that gout eventually leads to severe inflammation that manifests “as joint pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness that often lasts one to two weeks. These episodes, called gout flares, often recur. Inflammation is also a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Currently, about 8.3 million Americans have gout, and that number is only expected to increase in the coming years as obesity rates rise and baby boomers age. In other words, many Americans now have even more reason to monitor their heart health.
So what can you do to protect your heart health if you have gout? And how can you reduce your risk of developing the disease? An expert has shared some tips below to help you out.
What is gout and who gets it?
Gout is “a disease that causes inflammation of the joints [and] it is the most common [type of] inflammatory arthritis,” according to Dr. Ethan Craig, assistant professor of rheumatology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
At its core, “gout is caused by an immune reaction to monosodium urate crystals in the joints,” he said. These crystals occur when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood.
Gout flares (when joints become sore, red, or swollen, usually in the big toe, knee, and ankle) occur when something occasionally triggers the immune system to notice the crystals in the joints, Craig noted. . Flares vary in severity but can become chronic and even lead to joint destruction.
Can you reduce your risk of developing gout?
Unfortunately, much of gout risk is genetic, Craig said. “I stress this because there is this misconception that gout occurs entirely because of dietary choices or lifestyle choices, but in most cases that is not true,” he said. -he adds.
There are a few things you can do to help reduce your risk of developing gout. Craig noted that losing weight, moderating alcohol consumption, and following a Mediterranean diet are all ways to lower uric acid levels. It is important to note that it is not clear if these lifestyle choices completely prevent gout.
If you have gout, there are ways to manage it
This may all sound a bit grim, but there’s good news: Gout is highly treatable, Craig said.
Sharp flare-ups are treated with an anti-inflammatory drug or a steroid, he explained. And with long-term treatment, doctors address the underlying cause — which is high uric acid — through lifestyle changes or medication.
If you have gout, you need to stay up to date with your treatments. Gout is a lifelong disease that requires ongoing and consistent management. it can also become dangerous and even more painful when left untreated.
Plus, there are methods to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
If you have gout and are nervous about the increased risk of cardiovascular events, there are a few simple lifestyle changes you can make to improve your heart health while still managing your gout.
Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, not smoking and exercising regularly are all ways to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to the American Heart Association.
Walking 21 minutes a day also reduces your risk of heart disease by 30%, according to Harvard Health. And Dr. Tamanna Singh, co-director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Sports Heart Center, previously told HuffPost that walking can benefit anyone, whether or not they have an increased cardiovascular risk.
Going for a walk can help control things like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Activity can also prevent heart attacks and strokes, Singh said.
Although gout flares can mean an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, there are ways to manage both your gout and your heart health to help prevent these cardiovascular events.