Autoimmune disorders in women and cardiovascular health

by Dr. Nayantara Shenoy

On 8th March 2023, Aster Medcity, Kochi celebrated International Women’s Day with the official launch of Aster Women Heart center spearheaded by an All Women Doctors Team. Rheumatology is a part of this effort. You may wonder how is Rheumatology involved with Cardiovascular Health of Women. While there is widespread awareness about the common risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, a lesser-known risk factor is Autoimmune disease.

In Autoimmune disorders, your immune system starts attacking your own cells instead of protecting you. Women are more likely to develop Autoimmune diseases due to hormones, genetic factors, gut microbiota and environmental factors. Chronic autoimmune diseases can affect the heart valves, the blood vessels, the pumping capacity, the surrounding layers of the heart and its conduction system leading to a wide variety of cardiac problems. Premenopausal women are at lower risk of atherosclerotic heart disease than men but chronic systemic inflammation in diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Systemic Lupus erythematous (SLE) negates this benefit. Chronic stress and depression add to the cardiac risk.

The most important preventive strategy is adequate control of Autoimmune disorder, compliance with medication and regular follow-up. Certain medications like Hydroxychloroquine are known to reduce the risk of Atherosclerotic heart disease in Lupus. Also, biologicals like Anti-TNF are known to reduce the risk of myocardial infarction in Rheumatoid arthritis and Psoriatic arthritis.

So why wait? Take care of your precious heart with all your heart.