Research shows that gout flare-ups increase the risk of heart attack and stroke

In America, heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults, and stroke (another cardiovascular disease) is one of the top five causes of death.

Certain lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, and genetics also play a large role in determining the risk for heart attack, heart disease and stroke. This also applies to some health conditions. Gout, a common form of arthritis, may be associated with a higher risk of both stroke and heart attack, a new study suggests.

According to a UK-based study published in the American Medical Association’s journal JAMA, gout flare-ups increase for some time after the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The study followed 62,574 people with gout and found that “patients who had had a heart attack or stroke in the previous 60 days were twice as likely to have had gout.” [cardiovascular] event and the incidence of gout in the previous 61-120 days is one and a half times higher.

This means that if gout worsens, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases within four months of the onset.

According to the study, “people with gout are more likely to have cardiovascular risk factors.” Additionally, the study found that gout eventually leads to severe inflammation that “lasts for a week or two, such as joint pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness. These episodes, known as gout flares, often recur. “Inflammation is also a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.”

An estimated 8.3 million Americans currently suffer from gout, and this number is expected to grow in the coming years as obesity and Baby Boomers age. In other words, many Americans now have even more reason to monitor their heart health.

So if you have gout, what can you do to keep your heart healthy? And how to reduce the risk of developing the condition? Below, an expert shares some tips to help.

What is gout and who is prone to it?

Gout is a disease that causes inflammation of the joints [and] it is the most common [type of] inflammatory arthritis,” according to Dr. Ethan Craig, assistant professor of rheumatology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

At its core, “gout is caused by an immune reaction to monosodium urate crystals in the joints,” he said. These crystals form when the level of uric acid in the blood rises.

According to Craig, gout flares (when the joints become painful, red, or swollen, usually in the big toes, knees, and ankles) occur when the immune system occasionally detects crystals in the joints. Inflammation varies in severity, but can be chronic and even cause joint damage.

Can you reduce your risk of developing gout?

Unfortunately, a large component of gout risk is genetic, Craig said. “I emphasize this because there is a misconception that gout is caused entirely by diet or lifestyle choices, but in most cases this is not true,” he added.

There are several things you can do to help reduce your risk of developing gout. As Craig points out, losing weight, moderating alcohol and following a Mediterranean diet are all ways to lower uric acid levels. It is important to note that lifestyle choices are not completely preventable from gout.

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Gout usually occurs in the toes, ankles, and knees.

If you have gout, there are ways to manage it

All of this may sound a little sad, but there’s good news: gout is very treatable, Craig said.

Acute flare-ups are treated with anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids, he explained. And with long-term treatment, doctors address the underlying cause — high uric acid — through lifestyle changes or medication.

If you have gout, you should be aware of your treatment. Gout is a lifelong disease that requires constant and ongoing management; it can also become dangerous and more severe if left untreated.

In addition, there are ways to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke

If you suffer from gout and are concerned about your increased risk of cardiovascular disease, there are a few simple lifestyle changes you can make to improve your heart health while continuing to manage your gout.

According to the American Heart Association, maintaining a healthy weight, eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, not smoking, and exercising regularly are all ways to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

According to Harvard Health, walking 21 minutes a day can reduce the risk of heart disease by 30%. And Dr. Tamanna Singh, co-director of the Cleveland Clinic Sports Cardiology Center, previously told HuffPost that walking is beneficial for everyone, whether or not it increases cardiovascular risk.

Walking can help control things like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This activity also prevents heart attacks and strokes, Singh said.

Gout flare-ups can mean an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, but there are ways to manage your gout and heart health to prevent these cardiovascular events.

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