Stiff Fingers Are Windows Into Heart Disease
researchers have discovered an association between
osteoarthritis in even a single finger joint in men
and the likelihood they will die of cardiovascular
Women with osteoarthritis in the fingers aren't home
free by any means, the study found. They had a
modestly higher risk of dying from heart disease if
they had arthritis in one finger or in symmetrical
joints, the Finns report in the February issue of
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Men with symmetrical arthritis of the fingers
weren't at increased risk of dying from heart
disease, but those with arthritis in a single finger
joint were 42 percent likelier to die.
Women were at increased risk whether they had a
single digit involved or symmetrical joints, with a
25 percent higher risk for symmetrical joints with
arthritis and 26 percent for a single joint.
The biggest surprise, say researchers, was that
"osteoarthritis in any finger joint significantly
predicted cardiovascular deaths in men."
Exactly why this occurs isn't known, researchers
say. But "even if the mechanism remains unclear, it
is well known that body mass index [BMI]" is tied to
both osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease. Of
the 3,595 participants, 2,139 had BMIs above 25,
which is considered overweight.
Researchers say that even though the association
between hand osteoarthritis and increased risk of
death from heart problems isn't thoroughly
understood, "this study shows clearly how important
are the healthy ways of living. Try to avoid getting
overweight by exercising enough and eating low-fat
food, and you have a lower risk both of
osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease and you
will live a longer life."
If you already have arthritis, ask your doctor about
anti-inflammatory medicines to delay the progress of
the disease and about a moderate exercise program.