The Impact of Gout on Heart Disease

New research reported by the American Heart Association (AHA) reveals that gout, a type of inflammatory arthritis, is now believed to be a bigger indicator of possible heart disease than previously thought. The risk of death by cardiovascular disease, heart attack or stroke is fifteen percent higher among gout sufferers than among people who never experienced gout. Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the United States.

What is gout?

Gout is occurs when there is too much uric acid in the blood stream. Uric acid is produced by the body and increased by consumption of some foods, including mackerel and beer. Most of the time, uric acid dissolves in blood, travels to the kidneys and is released in urine. With gout, however, the acid crystalizes into needle-like forms that can cause great pain. Tenderness, warmth, swelling and redness may also result.

There are several stages of gout, beginning with asymptomatic gout, the period when the amount of uric acid in the system is increasing. Acute gout usually happens after a high consumption of certain foods or alcohol and generally lasts around ten days. After the first acute gout attack, the Arthritis Foundation reports that a second occurrence may never arrive. But 60% of the time, another attack will happen within one year.

Interval gout is the time between acute attacks. While no symptoms may be visible, uric acid is still building and lifestyle changes and medicine could be considered to prevent gout from arising again. Chronic gout refers to uric acid levels that remain high over a period of years and can result in joint damage and lingering pain.

Gout and cardiovascular risks similar

There are certain cardiovascular risk factors also identified as gout risks. They include family history, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. All of these are indicators of both heart disease and gout. Obesity is also common to both. Gout generally appears earlier than usual among obese people. Gout is also seen to occur more frequently in those who have had bypass surgery.

A heart healthy diet helps prevent gout

Certain foods that contribute to cardiovascular disease also increase the risk of gout. Red meat, excessive alcohol and foods with high fructose content are bad for both. An eating plan known as “DASH” (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is described by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) as a flexible plan that will create a heart healthy diet. The Arthritis Foundation endorses it as a way to help control gout. Recommended foods are fruit, vegetables and whole grains, as well as fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Fish, poultry, nuts, beans and vegetable oils are encouraged in the plan.

In addition to recommended foods are those to be eliminated or, at least, avoided. They include sugar filled deserts or soft drinks, fatty meats, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils, like coconut and palm oils.

NHLBI reports that the DASH plan lowers blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, the cholesterol that builds up in arteries.

Note: A physician or cardiologist should be consulted before starting any diet or exercise plan.

Gout should not be ignored

Some gout sufferers believe that if their discomfort from flare-ups is mild, there is no reason to consult a physician. Medical professionals now see such a link between gout and heart disease. They recommend that a physician or cardiologist be notified if gout occurs. The gout may not only be related to heart issues, but reporting it could help determine if they exist because blood pressure and heart rate will be checked by the examining physician.

To learn more about the impact of gout on the cardiovascular system, log on to vascularhealthclinics.org.