Regular Physical Activity Lowers Cardiovascular Risk in Rheumatic Disease Patients

Loving Senior Couple Walking With Pet Golden Retriever Dog Along Autumn Woodland Path Through TreesPatients with rheumatic disease have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, a new report published in Rheumatology suggests that regular exercise can reduce the risks associated with vascular dysfunctions.

Rheumatic diseases are a result of an imbalanced immune system that can lead to the production of antibodies that work against the subject’s cells, especially in the joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. There is currently no cure for the diseases, but they can be controlled with anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants, and biologics.


For rheumatoid disease patients, the risk of developing atherosclerosis is higher compared to those who do not have the immune disease. Atherosclerosis is a narrowing of the arteries as cholesterol plaque builds up, leading to the obstruction of blood flow. As a result, rheumatoid disease patients are more likely to suffer from heart attacks and other cardiovascular disorders.

The Report

The report included information from researchers working in Brazil and the United Kingdom who analyzed the results of a systematic review of scientific literature. Overall, they covered ten studies involving 355 volunteers with various diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and spondylarthritis (inflammation of the spine). All participants were enrolled in 12-week exercise programs involving walking in the park or on a treadmill, stationary cycling, high-intensity interval training, and muscle training.

“Our analysis of the results showed that exercise improved small and large vessel endothelial function to a clinically significant extent. Accordingly, we suggested that exercise can be considered ‘medication’ for these patients because of its potential to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events,” said Tiago Peçanha, first author of the article.

Researchers noted that atherosclerosis develops quickly in rheumatoid disease patients due to the chronic inflammation associated with the condition and continuous use of anti-inflammatory drugs. Small changes start in the blood vessel structure and function for these patients, then the arteries gradually harden, preventing them from dilating when necessary.

This new review was able to show that exercise can improve small and large vessel vascular function in patients with autoimmune rheumatic diseases. However, this study did have limitations and cannot provide enough evidence to suggest that exercise also promotes a structural recovery of damaged arteries.

Physical activity and the effects on those with rheumatoid diseases are still new, so more research is needed to identify the best protocols and investigate safety and adherence among the population. However, this is the first step in recording the importance of regular exercise to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease in these patients.

Author Bio

Sarah began her interest in nutritional healing at an early age. After going through health problems and becoming frustrated with the conventional ways doctors wanted to treat her illness (which were not working), she took it upon herself to find alternative treatments. This led her to revolutionize her own diet to help her get healthier and tackle her health problems. She began treating her illness by living a more balanced lifestyle through healthy food choices, exercise and other alternative medicine such as meditation. This total positive lifestyle change led her to earn a diploma in Nutritional Therapy from Health Sciences Academy in London, England. Today, Sarah enjoys helping others by teaching healthy lifestyle changes through her personal consultations and with her regular contributions to the Doctors Health Press. Also, passionate about following her dreams in life, Sarah moved to France and lived in Paris for over 5 years where she earned a certification in beadwork and embroidery from Lesage (an atelier owned by Chanel). She then went on to be a familiar face sitting front row and reporting from Paris Fashion Week. Sarah continues to practice some of the cultural ways of life she learned while in Europe. They enjoy their food, and take the time to relax and enjoy many of life’s little moments. These are life lessons she is glad to have brought back home with her.