According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gout is a common form of inflammatory arthritis that is very painful.
Physicians say it usually affects one joint at a time (often the big toe joint). “There are times when symptoms get worse, known as flares, and times when there are no symptoms, known as remission,” they say.
genetics or another underlying condition such as kidney disease play a major role in having gout
Gout is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis worldwide, yet it’s also one of the most likely to cause a lot of confusion. Many people wrongly assume that gout causes severe pain only in the big toe, or that only wealthy people who consume decadent foods and alcohol get it.
In reality, gout often tends to strike in the big toe, but it can also commonly cause excruciating pain in many different joints.
Experts say that genetics or another underlying condition such as kidney disease play a major role in having gout.
In people who are genetically susceptible to the condition, gout can be exacerbated by overindulging in high-fat, high-sugar foods, drinking too much, and being overweight or obese.
Perhaps the biggest misconception, however, is that gout is merely about joint pain. Although your joints might bear the brunt of the pain, gout is an inflammatory disease that is associated with a variety of health problems throughout your body — including in your heart and blood vessels.
high-fat, high-sugar foods, drinking too much, and being overweight or obese can result in gout
A study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Disease found that more than half of gout patients are at “very high risk” for heart disease, thanks to factors including a buildup of fatty plaque in their carotid arteries (major vessels that provide blood flow to the brain). If your carotid arteries are clogged with plaque, it could lead to a stroke.
Other research from the University of Oxford has shown that people with gout are twice as likely as members of the general public to have a heart attack or stroke. Meanwhile, a study from the Journal of the American Heart Association determined that coronary artery disease patients (being treated for damage or blockages in the major vessels of the heart) who have gout are 15 percent more likely than others with coronary artery disease to die from cardiovascular disease or suffer a heart attack or stroke.
more than half of gout patients are at very high risk for heart disease
Why gout might harm your heart
Inflammation: In people with gout, high levels of urate (uric acid) build-up in the bloodstream, form crystals, and get deposited in one or more joints. That sets off an inflammatory response characterized by redness, swelling, and major pain.
But it’s also a sign that your body might have too much inflammation in general, which can predispose you to blood clots, stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular problems.
High blood pressure: More than 70 percent of people with gout have hypertension (chronic high blood pressure), which raises the risk of heart attack and stroke. While some of these individuals certainly had high blood pressure before developing gout, there’s also evidence that the high uric acid levels associated with gout makes it more likely that someone with pre-hypertension (borderline high blood pressure) will eventually end up with the full-fledged problem.
many patients with gout have obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and abnormal cholesterol
What’s more, many common blood pressure medications are in the diuretic class — they make you urinate more often. That can make you slightly dehydrated and make your blood more concentrated, which increases the odds of uric acid in your blood forming crystals that may lead to gout or worsen it.
Obesity and diabetes: Although anyone can get gout, people with a high body mass index (BMI) face a higher risk because obesity tends to increase uric acid levels in the bloodstream. Obesity is also strongly associated with heart disease: Excess levels of fat often raise LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and triglycerides while lowering HDL (‘good’) cholesterol. Obesity also increases the odds of higher blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
“The main issue is the fact that many patients with gout have obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and abnormal cholesterol,” says Joshua F. Baker, MD, Associate Professor of Rheumatology and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania and the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center.
“It is important that these are identified and treated to prevent the risk of cardiovascular disease. Patients with gout are also at higher risk of developing these conditions over time, so they should be continually monitored for their development.”
The bottom line
There’s no better time than now to take steps to manage your gout and protect your heart.