For a study, it was determined that patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Exercise reduces various CV risk variables in the general population. Researchers tested the hypothesis that increased exercise is related to a protective traditional and non-traditional CV risk factor profile in RA patients in cross-sectional research. In 165 patients with RA, patient-reported exercise outside of daily activities was quantified using time and metabolic equivalents per week (METmin/week), as well as CV risk factors such as blood pressure, standard lipid profiles, lipoprotein particle concentrations (NMR spectroscopy), and vascular indices. The connection between exercise and CV risk variables was evaluated regardless of whether patients exercised or not, and after age, race, and gender were taken into account. 

More than half (54%) of RA patients did not exercise. The median value for exercise time was 113 minutes per week [IQR: 60, 210], while the median value for exercise metabolic equivalent expenditure was 484 METmin/week [IQR: 258, 990]. Disease activity (as evaluated by the DAS28 score), C-reactive protein, waist-hip ratio, and hypertension prevalence were all lower in exercisers compared to non-exercisers (all P-values <0.05), although the conventional lipid profile and body mass index were not statistically different. Exercisers had substantially greater HDL particle concentrations (P=0.004) and decreased vascular stiffness as determined by pulse wave velocity (P=0.005).

More self-reported activity in RA patients was linked to a lower waist-hip ratio, higher HDL particle concentration, reduced vascular stiffness, and a lower incidence of hypertension.