New recommendations from the European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology provide both broad and detailed advice for cardiovascular risk management in various rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs), many of which can lead to an increased possibility of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
“The panel believes that these recommendations will enable health care providers and patients to mutually engage in a long-term care pathway tailored to patients’ needs and expectations for improving cardiovascular health in RMDs,” write George C. Drosos, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and colleagues. The recommendations were published in February in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases).
EULAR assembled a task force to generate best practices for preventing CVD in patients with gout, vasculitis, systemic sclerosis (SSc), myositis, mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD), Sjögren syndrome (SS), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and antiphospholipid syndrome (APS).
The cardiovascular risk management of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriatic arthritis was covered in prior EULAR recommendations.
The task force included 20 members from 11 European countries, including 12 rheumatologists, 2 cardiologists, 1 metabolic medicine physician, 1 health care professional, 2 patient representatives, and 2 EMEUNET (Emerging EULAR Network) members. One group of task force members conducted a systematic literature review of 105 articles about gout, vasculitis, SSc, myositis, MCTD, and SS, and another group evaluated 75 articles about SLE and APS. Together, they decided on four overarching principles:
Clinicians need to be aware of increased cardiovascular risk in patients with RMDs, with disease reduction likely decreasing risk.
Rheumatologists – in tandem with other health care providers – are responsible for their patients’ cardiovascular risk assessment and management.
Screening for cardiovascular risk should be performed regularly in all patients with RMDs, with an emphasis on factors like smoking and blood pressure management.
Patient education and counseling on cardiovascular risk, including important lifestyle modifications, is key for RMD patients.
Specific recommendations from the gout, vasculitis, SSc, myositis, MCTD, and SS group include deploying existing cardiovascular prediction tools as they are used in the general population, with the European Vasculitis Society model suggesting to supplement the Framingham Risk Score for patients with antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody–associated vasculitis. They also recommended avoiding diuretics in patients with gout and beta-blockers in patients with SSc, as well as following the same blood pressure and lipid management strategies that are used among the general population.
Recommendations from the SLE and APS group include thoroughly assessing traditional cardiovascular risk factors in all patients, following typical blood pressure management strategies in patients with APS, and setting a blood pressure target of less than 130/80 mm Hg in patients with SLE. They also recommended administering the lowest possible glucocorticoid dose in patients with SLE, along with treatment with hydroxychloroquine – unless contraindicated – and even common preventive strategies like low-dose aspirin if it suits their cardiovascular risk profile.
As for next steps, the task force noted several areas where additional focus is needed, such as identifying patient subgroups with increased cardiovascular risk. This could include patients with a longer disease duration or more flare-ups, older patients, and those with certain disease characteristics like antiphospholipid positivity in SLE.