Heart disease and arthritis…what a horrible combination. It would be safe to say that everyone is affected by heart disease and/or arthritis in some way. According to the CDC 1 out of 4 deaths is due to heart disease. Every year in the United States over 610,000 people die of a condition caused by heart disease! That’s incredible.

However, arthritis isn’t far behind. We’ve all heard of arthritis and we all know someone affected by arthritis. According to arthritis.org 50 million people are affected by arthritis. This also means that 1 in 5 people over 18 years old have some sort of arthritis. I bet the percentage of people over 50 years old with arthritis is much larger.

What do these two conditions have in common? Heart disease is a condition that takes place within the cardiovascular system in your body. However, arthritis is quite the opposite. Arthritis doesn’t seem to affect any organs and takes place in the skeletal system. What exactly is heart disease? Why exactly is arthritis and how are these common conditions connected?

Heart Disease

According to the American Heart Association,

“Heart and blood vessel disease — also called heart disease — includes numerous problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.”

The main cause of heart disease is plaque buildup in the arteries. However, what causes plaque to build up in the arteries? According to the Mayo Clinic the main causes of plaque buildup are:

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Heredity

Thankfully most of these conditions are preventable or manageable.

There are also other types of heart disease such as irregular heartbeat caused by problems with the electrical system, which affects your heart. Many people suffer from arrhythmia which means there is a constant abnormal heartbeat, which is caused by heart defects, diabetes and drug use. There is also heart infection, cardiomyopathy, and valvular heart disease. However, the most common killer in the United States is heart disease from plaque buildup in the arteries of the heart.

Arthritis

According to the Arthritis Foundation there are hundreds of different types of arthritis in fact, arthritis is not a single disease, but an informal way to identify joint pain or joint disease. However the most common type of arthritis is degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis. According to the source:

“Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. When the cartilage – the slick, cushioning surface on the ends of bones – wears away, bone rubs against bone, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Over time, joints can lose strength and pain may become chronic. Risk factors include:

  • Excessive weight
  • Family history
  • Age
  • Previous injury (ACL tear for example) “

Maybe you’re beginning to see a trend?

You’re born with cartilage in between your joints. Wearing down this cartilage causes bones to rub together, which makes your knees hurt, hips hurt, shoulders hurt etc.

Sometimes wearing down your cartilage at a faster rate than average is inevitable. If you work in a factory and you have to endure repetitive movements, you are at risk of wearing down your joints faster than average. This type of situation is unavoidable. However, if you are overweight and putting stress on your joints you are also wearing away your joints at a faster rate.

What does heart disease and arthritis have in common?

 Heart Disease and Arthritis

If you haven’t noticed the trend, the main connection between heart disease and arthritis is lifestyle factors. According to the American Heart Association there are six types of factors that you can control when it comes to Heart Disease. They include:

  • High Cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

Let’s see how these are connected to arthritis. Arthritis.org says:

“These also correlate with arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 52% of people with diabetes have arthritis, 53% with arthritis have high blood pressure, 66% with arthritis are overweight, and about 20% of people with arthritis smoke. Those risks appear to culminate in another formidable figure: According to a National Health Interview Survey, one in four adults with any form of arthritis also has heart disease.”

It seems as though the same lifestyle choices that are affecting your heart are also affecting your joints. Let’s look at some examples.

When you eat unhealthy you will most likely gain weight. As you gain weight you increase the risk of clogging your arteries with plaque. However, as you gain weight you are also putting more stress on your knees and other joints. This stress is wearing down your cartilage at a faster rate. If you continue to eat unhealthy for 30 years you may have a clogged artery, at risk of a heart attack, and unnecessary joint pain because you wore down the cartilage at a faster rate.

However, on the opposite side of this situation sometimes arthritis comes first, or isn’t necessarily caused by an unhealthy diet. For example, perhaps you were healthy your whole life. Working out at the gym put extra stress on your knees and over the years you developed arthritis. Since you have chronic joint pain you’ve become inactive. Since you’re inactive you’re at a greater risk of developing plaque in your arteries.

It looks as though the main objective is to remain active. To prevent heart disease and arthritis keep your joints moving and keep your heart healthy and active as well.

References:

  • American Heart Association. (2015, October 19). What is Cardiovascular Disease? [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Caregiver/Resources/WhatisCardiovascularDisease/WhatisCardiovascularDisease_UCM_301852_Article.jsp#.VsdLtZMrJEK
  • Arthritis Foundation. What is Arthritis? (online article). Retrieved from: http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/understanding-arthritis/what-is-arthritis.php
  • Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis & Heart Disease (online article). Retrieved from: http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/comorbidities/heart-disease/