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Two recent studies presented in August 2008, at the American College of Rheumatology’s annual meeting in San Francisco suggest that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) sufferers are also at increased risk for heart disease.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, compared 149 patients with RA with 1,405 people without the disease. RA sufferers were more likely to have a condition called diastolic dysfunction, which limits how effectively blood flows through the heart. The study wasn’t designed to determine whether RA caused diastolic dysfunction, but it observed that an association was present.

In the other study, Swedish researcher Marie Gunnarsson, a graduate student at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, followed 7,954 people newly diagnosed with RA and 38,913 folks without the disease for 10 years.

During that time, she found that participants with the disease had nearly twice the number of heart attacks and deaths from heart attacks. These findings suggest that the onset of RA brings on inflammatory changes that can lead to increased heart disease risk in fairly short order. “The fact that there is no increased risk [in these patients] prior to RA diagnosis suggests that there is something in the RA disease itself, such as inflammatory processes, that lead to this increased risk,” Ms. Gunnarsson said in a statement.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than one million people suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. It involves painful, swollen joints. If you have RA, just remember that not only your joints need to be monitored, but also your heart, and most important: inflammation levels.

While many patients use prescription medications such as COX-2 inhibitors for relieving arthritis stiffness, these drugs are known to increase risks for heart attack. Other drugs that work by blocking inflammatory messenger chemicals ultimately reduce the body’s immune defenses. Even aspirin, although relatively safe, can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, according to experts.


In a recent study at the Ukrainian Rheumatology Center in Kiev, pancreatic enzymes relieved rheumatoid arthritis. Patients given the active preparation showed a decrease in concentrations of circulating immune complexes (averaging between 28 and 42 percent), and decreases in rheumatoid disease factors. Twenty percent of patients reduced their doses of painkillers by 50 to 75 percent. One patient stopped taking methotrexate and experienced a clinical remission of the disease. Morning stiffness scores improved. More than half the patients rated their treatment as good, compared to only about a third of the patients using only medical drugs.

In a second study from the Pediatric Clinic of the Institute of Rheumatology of the Russian Academy of Medical Science, 10 children with juvenile arthritis were given a preparation utilizing pancreatic enzymes. They could also receive treatment with one painkiller. The number of actively inflamed joints was reduced from 44 to 15, especially in the second month. One youthful patient with psoriatic arthritis experienced a significant reduction in dermal signs of the disease. The natural medicine proved effective generally after four to five months of treatment.

At the same time that systemic enzymes address joint health, they also benefit heart and circulatory health by helping the body to maintain lownormal inflammation levels.

Dental studies show that these same enzyme preparations lower C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, a key marker for RA-related inflammation.

Medizym, a leading pancreatic enzyme preparation from the leaders in enzyme manufacturing, Marlyn Nutraceuticals, and other systemic enzyme preparations are nontoxic and regulated as a dietary supplement in the United States. Consumers receive two health benefits: joint support and maintenance of low-normal inflammation levels.

Most health professionals recommend high potency enterically coated pancreatic enzymes such as Medizym.

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