About ten percent of the population in wealthy regions such as Europe and the United States has one or more autoimmune diseases. Examples of autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system considers the body’s cells and materials as foreign, include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, systemic sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes. Previous research has shown that some of these conditions are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, but these studies were too small to draw firm conclusions about the need for cardiovascular disease prevention in patients with autoimmune disease.
That’s why an international research team has launched a large-scale investigation. Scientists searched for possible links between 19 of the most common autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases. They used anonymized data from Datalink for UK Clinical Practice Research, which represents 22 million patient records or about a fifth of the current UK population.
The results showed that the risk of cardiovascular disease was, on average, 1.56 times greater in patients with autoimmune diseases than in patients without. The risk also increases with the number of different autoimmune diseases in patients. Systemic sclerosis, Addison’s disease, lupus, and type 1 diabetes are among the most serious.
The results of the research will be presented this weekend at the annual conference of the European Society of Cardiology and published in the scientific journal The Lancet.