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Abstract

Objective

Because women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are 5–8 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease (CHD) than are women in the general population, we assessed the prevalence of classic risk factors for CHD in women with SLE.

Methods

Consecutive female patients with SLE who were without evidence of CHD and were attending a large lupus clinic in Toronto were studied. The control population was recruited from among age-matched subjects attending a family practice unit for an annual physical examination. The prevalence of classic CHD risk factors and the 10-year risk of a CHD-related event were determined using the Framingham risk assessment formula. Lipid subfractions, other metabolic risk factors, lifestyle variables, and demographic characteristics were also compared between the 2 groups.

Results

We studied 250 SLE patients and 250 controls whose mean ± SD age was 44.8 ± 12 years and 44.3 ± 15 years, respectively. Hypertension and diabetes were significantly more common among the SLE patients. Although the SLE patients had a higher mean number of CHD risk factors per patient, the 10-year risk of a CHD-related event, using the Framingham multiple risk factor assessment, was the same in SLE patients and controls (3.2%). Compared with controls, SLE patients had higher levels of very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and total triglycerides, and had higher levels of homocysteine despite having higher folate levels. Premature menopause, sedentary lifestyle, and an at-risk body habitus were also more prevalent in SLE patients.

Conclusion

Women with SLE have a range of detectable coronary risk factors that are not fully reflected in the Framingham risk factor formula. These factors are likely to contribute to the loss of protection from CHD that has been observed in SLE.