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Mediators of Inflammation
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 147354, 8 pages
Review Article

Atherosclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: More Than a Simple Association

Department of Rheumatology, University and IRCCS Foundation Policlinico San Matteo, Viale Golgi 19, 27100 Pavia, Italy

Received 25 June 2012; Accepted 10 July 2012

Academic Editor: Miguel A. González-Gay

Copyright © 2012 Lorenzo Cavagna et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In the last decades a large amount of evidence linked rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to atherosclerosis. In fact, RA patients have an increased risk of cardiovascular events that is not fully explained by other classic cardiovascular risk factors. RA and atherosclerosis may share several common pathomechanisms and inflammation undoubtedly plays a primary role. The proinflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin-6, involved in the pathogenesis of RA, are also independently predictive of subsequent cardiovascular disease (CVD). In RA, inflammation alters HDL constituents and the concentration of LDL and HDL, thus facilitating atherosclerosis and CVD events. On the other hand, also the increase of oxidative processes, frequently observed in RA, induces atherosclerosis. Interestingly, some genetic polymorphisms associated with RA occurrence enhance atherosclerosis, however, other polymorphisms associated with RA susceptibility do not increase CVD risk. Several other mechanisms may influence atherosclerotic processes in RA. Moreover, atherosclerosis may be directly mediated also by underlying autoimmune processes, and indirectly by the occurrence of metabolic syndrome and impaired physical activity. Finally, the effects of RA therapies on cardiovascular system in general and on atherosclerosis in particular are really wide and different. However, the starting point of every RA treatment is that disease control, or better remission, is the best way we have for the reduction of CVD occurrence.