Rheumatoid arthritis patients at heightened blood clot risk

Rheumatoid arthritis affects about 1.5 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the condition can be a significant threat to active senior living. Yet while RA causes painful swelling of joints and erosion of bones, it also raises the risk of a number of other health conditions. A new study from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that people with RA are at a greater risk for developing blood clots in their legs and lungs.

The findings, published recently in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, are based on extensive analysis of the medical records of more than 30,000 people who developed RA between 1998 and 2008. Researchers followed their health through 2010, and after comparing their well-being to that of 117,000 control subjects, determined that RA patients are about three times as likely as healthy subjects to develop a blood clot in their legs and twice as likely to experience a clot that travels to their lungs. The findings persisted even when researchers adjusted for risk factors such as sex and age.

"At this point, patients with RA should do their best to avoid modifiable risk factors for blood clots," Dr. Diane Horowitz, a rheumatologist at New York's North Shore University Hospital, told HealthDay News.

There are a number of ways seniors with RA can reduce their risk of developing blood clots. Perhaps most significantly, seniors should not smoke and should be sure to avoid being inactive for too long. It's also essential to recognize the symptoms of a clot including sudden pain, swelling or tenderness, according to the American Society of Hematology.