Uric acid is a known risk factor for both hypertension and heart disease. Many epidemiological studies show a link between uric acid and coronary disease, including stroke and heart attack. With higher levels of uric acid in the body, it creates the environment for painful gout flares. And those who have gout are more likely to have heart health issues–including heart disease, blocked arteries and heart failure. Left untreated, gout can be very dangerous, with new research showing that having gout doubles a person’s risk for heart attack or stroke.
Uric acid is a normal waste product found in your blood stream – but having more uric acid than the kidneys can get rid of can lead to a condition called hyperuricemia (high uric acid in the blood). High levels of uric acid can cause crystals to form in the joints and other tissues. The inflammation associated with gout can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Though other health issues – such as obesity, high lipid levels, kidney disease and diabetes – can increase your risk for gout and heart problems, research shows that hyperuricemia alone has been linked with a higher risk of death and other heart-related complications.
Flares of gout or inflammation anywhere in the body can worsen heart disease and limits how to treat patients, especially with corticosteroids. Traditional medications like allopurinol can be used, but special care is required with colchicine. Patients and caregivers need to be vigilant for potential side effects, anticipating them and going slowly while using the medications. By visiting a rheumatologist or other gout specialist, you can ensure you’re getting the right treatment for gout and your heart health.
Control Gout and Protect Your Heart Health
Maintaining a healthy serum uric acid level of 6.0 mg/dL or below is important to reduce risk for gout and heart disease. Ask your doctor for a routine serum uric acid blood test to see if you have elevated uric acid. The doctor can also run tests to measure your blood pressure and check your cholesterol levels.
If your uric acid levels are high, your doctor may prescribe medications to keep uric acid levels low and reduce your risk for future gout flares. It is important to take these medications as prescribed – and not to stop them without talking with the doctor. It is also important to tell your doctor about all other medications and supplements you are taking, as some may be raising your uric acid levels.
Other steps–such as drinking plenty of water to flush the kidneys and help to remove uric acid from the bloodstream; exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight; and avoiding trigger foods–are also important for reducing risk.
To learn more about gout and heart health, download this brochure. Additional information about heart health is available through the American Heart Association at heart.org.