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RA patients ‘have higher risk of stroke’

Rheumatoid arthritis is associated with an increased incidence of atrial fibrillation and stroke, a Danish study has found.

Researchers followed the entire Danish population aged over 15 years without rheumatoid arthritis, atrial fibrillation or stroke over 12 years.

They found the overall incidence of atrial fibrillation was approximately 40% higher in people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, compared with the general population. There was also a 30% increase in risk of stroke in these individuals compared to the general population.

For both atrial fibrillation and stroke, there was a threefold increase in the relative risk in patients with rheumatoid arthritis younger than 50.

Study lead Dr Jesper Lindhardsen, research fellow at Copenhagen University Hospital, said: ‘Given the augmented risk of atrial fibrillation and the ample opportunity for diagnosis of arrhythmia at the recommended annual screening appointments, we suggest that the clinical focus should here include screening for atrial fibrillation.'

BMJ 2012