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Osteoarthritis and Cardiovascular Health

10th February 2022

Osteoarthritis can surely wreak havoc in your knees if not treated timely. However, long term effects of knee osteoarthritis can be sneakier than you think. Your heart is likely to take one of the hardest hits from osteoarthritis and subsequent inflammation. Here is a recap of relevant research, its implications, and possible causes explained by medical experts.

A 2016 review article from China collectively looked at a series of studies involving in total over 300,000 participants. The 15 studies pointed at one striking fact: the risk of cardiovascular disease increased by 24% in patients with osteoarthritis compared to the rest of the participants (1). A 2019 study from Lund University, Sweden investigated the death statistics between ages 45-84 over the past 10 years. They found a strong correlation between osteoarthritis and heart failure. According to the research team, a person suffering from knee OA for 9-11 years has 16% higher chances of heart failure (2).

Cardiovascular Health

So, how does osteoarthritis impact your heart? While there is not sufficient research looking at the underlying mechanism, experts proposed a few possible reasons. Knowing more about them could guide you in the right direction to take precautions.

  • Advanced stages of osteoarthritis are accompanied by inflammation. It is thought that knee joint inflammation could cause blood clots and ruptures in arteries, leading to cardiovascular disease in the long run.
  • People with knee joint pain have reduced mobility. Considering the significance of exercise in heart health, it is understandable how lack of exercise because of joint pain can increase the risk of cardiac failure. Also, the over-sedentary lifestyle can cause accumulation of fat, which in turn increases the production of inflammatory chemicals.
  • Pain relievers, especially NSAIDs like Ibuprofen, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Prolonged NSAID use is known to cause sodium retention, narrowing of arteries, and clot formation, all of which are red flags for stroke and heart failure.

So, how can you continue to treat knee osteoarthritis whilst minimising the risk of cardiovascular diseases?

Healthy Diet

You are in luck because the requirements of a diet for heart health and knee osteoarthritis go hand in hand. This healthy diet consists of omega-3 resources like fish, fibre-rich food like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts. Both in knee osteoarthritis and cardiovascular diseases, experts recommend avoiding too much red meat, processed food, and sugar. You can find detailed articles about the best food for knee osteoarthritis on our blog.

Exercise

Don't let your knee pain block your movement. Exercise helps to regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels in the blood. Furthermore, low-impact exercises like swimming and cycling have added benefits for osteoarthritis. By strengthening your leg muscles, you end up building a robust support system for your knees. If you are overweight, it helps reduce your body weight, thereby reducing pressure on your knees. You can find detailed articles about best exercises for knee osteoarthritis, as well as the ideal fitness equipment on our blog. If you’re in so much pain, you can’t exercise, you should consult with your GP whether you are a candidate for bracing.

Pain Relief and Surgery

If you use NSAIDs for pain relief, make sure to use the minimum effective dose for the shortest time period possible, some studies have shown long-term use of large doses might triple the risk of CVD. Try non-drug options, such as hot and cold therapy or massage. You can also inquire with your doctor about alternative pain relief therapies.

If you find that knee pain is making your life miserable and preventing you from living a healthy lifestyle, you should consider knee replacement surgery. Although you may not regain a full range of motion, you will be able to exercise without experiencing pain.


  • Wang, Haoran, et al. "Osteoarthritis and the risk of cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis of observational studies." Scientific reports 6.1 (2016): 1-7.
  • Turkiewicz, Aleksandra, A. A. Kiadaliri, and Martin Englund. "Cause-specific mortality in osteoarthritis of peripheral joints." Osteoarthritis and cartilage 27.6 (2019): 848-854.

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