Autoimmune Diseases and the Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

By the Autoimmune Hepatitis Association




Research studies have long suggested that patients with autoimmune diseases may be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and stroke. Concerningly, most doctors and patients are unaware of this association. Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), a prototypical autoimmune disease, has not been studied from this perspective. Therefore, without direct evidence, doctors may have to infer risks of cardiovascular disease for AIH from other studies. A recent paper published in the journal Lancet reported on the association of 19 autoimmune diseases (did not include AIH) and 12 different cardiovascular diseases across 22 million people in the UK. The only autoimmune liver disease included in this study was primary biliary cholangitis. The major finding of this research was that the risk for a broad range of cardiovascular diseases was increased for all 19 autoimmune diseases from 1.5 to 3.5 times that of individuals without autoimmune diseases. The risk also seemed to be more prominent in younger patients (less than 55 years). Concerningly, even when the authors adjusted the findings to consider more traditional risk factors (age, sex, smoking, obesity, high cholesterol, etc.), the increased cardiovascular risk was still present. This helped the authors to conclude that the increased risk may be driven by inflammation/autoreactive immune system. Although we don’t understand cardiovascular risk in AIH, this very large study shows that all autoimmune conditions have the potential to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Further study of the impact inflammation control has on this risk is needed. Read the publication here.

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