Rheumatic diseases are diseases characterized by chronic inflammation and pain that affects the connecting or supporting structures of our bodies. These include the joints; tendons; ligaments; bones; muscles; and sometimes even internal organs.
Rheumatic diseases include arthritis, which means ‘joint inflammation’ and it encompasses more than 100 different disorders. Some of the most common rheumatic diseases include:
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Factors that increase risk of developing rheumatic diseases
- Excessive weight
- Genetic factors
- Occupations which lead to injury and overuse of joints
- Increasing age
- Dietary factors may increase or decrease your risk for certain rheumatic diseases — gout is associated with diets high in purines, which are found in various types of meat
- Gender – Gout is more common in men while rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, fibromyalgia, and lupus is more common in women.
Symptoms of rheumatic diseases
Rheumatoid diseases may exhibit a wide variety of symptoms such as:
- Extreme fatigue, lack of energy, weakness, or a feeling of malaise.
- Eye inflammation or infections
- Muscle pain
- Pain in the neck, spine or back
- Difficulty taking a deep breath
- Rashes and sores
For arthritis, symptoms that manifest in the joints include:
- Stiffness, especially in the morning
- Difficulty using the joint normally
- Warmth and redness
Dyslipidemia in patients with rheumatic diseases
Rheumatic diseases have been found to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and dyslipidemia. Constant state of inflammation among patients with active rheumatic diseases predispose them to damage within the blood vessels leading to increased risk of dyslipidemia and CVD. Dyslipidemias are being increasingly recognized as an important contributory factor towards the development of CVD and also the leading cause of death in patients with active rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), ankylosing spondylitis and anti phospholipid antibody syndrome.
For this reason, early identification and correction of significant lipid abnormalities is recommended so as to reduce the morbidity and mortality in these patients.
Eating foods that can prevent inflammation and alleviate joint symptoms. A good diet should be rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and fish. It is recommended that rheumatic disease patients should increase their consumption of omega 3 fatty acids since they lessen joint pain and alleviate morning stiffness. Dietary sources include fatty fish such as tuna, sardines, and mackerel. According to the American Heart Association, rheumatic disease ‘patients should adhere to the following targets.
- Limit saturated fat to less than 7% of your daily calories or 9 grams of saturated fats
- Daily calories should comprise of between 25% and 35% total fat
- Trans fat should be less than 1% of the daily calories
- Cholesterol should be limited to less than 300 mg. People who are already suffering from high LDL or are on cholesterol medicine should further cut down the cholesterol to less than 200 mg per day
- Eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber everyday from whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes
Physical activity and exercise are safe and beneficial to most people, including those with rheumatic disease.
The damages on joints that occurs during rheumatoid arthritis impair the level of physical activity, which might make someone overweight. The level of physical activity, BMI, waist to hip ratio, and insulin resistance may worsen the effects of inflammation on the lipid profile of rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Within reason, the more exercise a person can do, the better, but only within the boundaries of maintaining safety and comfort.