The Temporal Relationship between Arterial Stiffening and Blood Pressure Is Modified by Methotrexate Treatment in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis
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Background: The temporal relationship between arterial stiffness and blood pressure (BP) may vary depending on age and other clinical and demographic factors. Since both BP and arterial stiffness are also affected by inflammatory processes, we examined the temporal arterial stiffness-BP relationship in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treated with either methotrexate (MTX), an anti-rheumatic agent shown to reduce cardiovascular risk in meta-analyses, or other disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Methods: Measurements of clinic and 24-h peripheral and central systolic and diastolic BP (SBP and DBP), and pulse wave velocity (PWV) were assessed in RA patients on stable treatment with either MTX ± other DMARDs (MTX group, n = 41, age 61 ± 14 years, 73% females) or other DMARDs (non-MTX group, n = 18, age 65 ± 13 years, 89% females). Measurements were performed at baseline and after 8 months. The temporal relationships were examined using cross-lagged path analysis with models that included age, sex, body mass index, prednisolone, and folic acid use and 28-joint disease activity score. Results: There were significant differences in the temporal arterial stiffness-BP relationships between those in the MTX and DMARD groups. A higher PWV at baseline caused a significant increase in 6 out of 8 different measures of SBP at 8 months amongst those treated with DMARDs (standardized β, range = 0.54–0.66, p < 0.003 for each) and 3 out of 8 different measures of DBP (standardized β, range = 0.52–0.61, p < 0.003 for each) but was not associated with either SBP or DBP at 8 months amongst those treated with MTX. The difference in the effect of baseline PWV on 8-month BP between the 2 groups was also significant (p < 0.003) for 4 measures including clinic peripheral SBP (β = 7.0, 95% CI = 2.8–11.1 mmHg per 1 m/s higher baseline PWV; p < 0.001). Conclusions: Higher arterial stiffness preceded increases in BP in subjects with RA treated with DMARDs, but these effects did not occur amongst those treated with MTX. The different effects were seen mostly in measures of SBP but were also present in some measures of DBP. Our findings suggest MTX may confer a protective effect against stiffness mediated increases in BP in patients with RA.
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