Gout is a condition that causes recurrent pain and swelling in your joints, often your big toe. It's caused by a buildup of uric acid in your blood. This excess acid crystallizes inside your joints, causing painful attacks of gout. This acid can have negative affects on the rest of your body as well, particularly your cardiovascular system. Here's what you need to know about gout and heart disease.
What is uric acid?
Your body makes uric acid when it breaks down purines. Purines are found in many of the foods you eat, such as beans and peas, and they're also found in some common drinks like beer. Your kidneys are supposed to filter uric acid out of your blood, but if your body makes too much, they can't keep up.
How does uric acid affect your heart?
Uric acid causes atherosclerosis, a serious disease of the blood vessels. In atherosclerosis, plaque builds up on the walls of your vessels and hardens in place, making your vessels narrower. This makes it harder for blood to get around your body, and also makes it easier for the vessels to clog.
Uric acid also forms crystals in your blood, just like it does in your joints. These crystals have a serious effect on your platelets, the clotting cells in your blood. The crystals make them clump together, which increases your risk of getting a blood clot. Blood clots can clog your vessels and lead to heart attacks and strokes.
What is your risk of heart disease?
Studies have shown that people with gout have a higher risk of developing heart disease than people without gout: gout sufferers are 1.73 times more likely to suffer a heart attack. High levels of uric acid in your blood are also a predictor of heart failure, the need for heart transplants, and all-cause mortality.
What are the signs of heart disease?
There are many symptoms that can indicate heart disease, such as chest pain or shortness of breath. You may also have heart palpitations or a faster heartbeat than normal, and you may feel weak or dizzy. People with gout need to stay alert for these symptoms due to their increased risk.
Does treating gout lower your risk?
Since high uric acid levels in your blood are what's responsible for your increased risk of heart disease, lowering your uric acid levels will lower your risk. There are medications available that will either stop your body from making uric acid or help it remove the excess amounts, so talk to your doctor as soon as possible. You can even take part in a gout cardiovascular disease study to help doctors find out about more effective treatment methods.
Gout causes pain in your joints, but it can lead to much more serious problems than that. People with gout have an increased risk of heart disease, so seek treatment for your gout as soon as possible.