Overweight Women More likely to Develop Rheumatoid Arthritis

arthritis_weightOverweight and obese women are more likely to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), compared to women of normal weight, according to a new study.  RA is a form of inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. Most people with RA experience intermittent bouts of intense disease activity, called flares.  During a flare, joints may feel warm to the touch and patients may experience decreased range of motion, as well as inflammation, swelling and pain in the areas around the affected joints, according to the Arthritis Foundation.  Over time, the inflammation that characterizes RA can also affect numerous organs and internal systems. An estimated 1.3 million Americans have RA, with more women than men being affected.

The new study, conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, looked at whether there is a connection between excess weight in women and RA.  They used data from 2 large studies on women, with more than 230,000 participants in total. The studies included data on body mass index (BMI) and RA was determined based on connective tissue screening questionnaires and review of medical records. The researchers found that women who were overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) or obese (BMI of 30 or higher) had a higher incidence of developing future RA compared to women with normal weight.  Overweight and obese women from the first study had almost a 20 percent increased risk of developing RA and overweight and obese women in the second study had about a 75% increased risk. The findings were presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting.

Carrying excess weight puts added strain on the body, which can lead to significant back, joint, and feet pain, and increases the risk of developing other serious health problems. A recent survey of more than 1 million Americans found a significant association between obesity and pain. You can read about the survey here.

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