For Immediate Release
March 24, 2009

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

New CDC Study Says Fear of Arthritis Pain May
Keep People with Heart Disease Inactive

A new nationwide Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study shows that 56.6 percent of Kansas adults with heart disease also have arthritis, a painful condition that may be a barrier to physical activity—an essential strategy for people trying to manage and control their heart disease. 

In Kansas, 27.2 percent of adults have arthritis and 6.5 percent of adults have heart disease. Research shows that engaging in joint-friendly activities such as walking, swimming, biking and participating in arthritis-specific exercise programs can help manage both conditions. For people with heart disease, physical activity helps to lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.  For those who have arthritis, physical activity reduces pain, improves function and delays disability.

“Engaging in 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity can help manage arthritis pain and other chronic health conditions,” said Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, State Health Officer and Director of the Division of Health at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). “If 30 minutes of activity is too overwhelming to get started, consider breaking down your activity into 10 minute increments.  Most importantly, talk with your doctor and choose activities that are right and realistic for you, and do not let a chronic health condition keep you from staying active.”

The study published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on February 27 titled, “Arthritis as a potential barrier to physical activity among adults with heart disease,  United States, 2005 and 2007,” analyzed data on the prevalence of physical inactivity among adults with arthritis and heart disease in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

The overall prevalence of physical inactivity (29 percent) among adults with both arthritis and heart disease was found to be considerably higher than among adults who have heart disease alone (21 percent), adults who have arthritis alone (18 percent) and adults in the general population (11 percent).

The study also found that adults with heart disease and arthritis who are physically inactive varied among states ranging from 20.5 percent in Colorado to 50.3 percent in Kentucky. In Kansas, prevalence of physical inactivity among adults with heart disease and arthritis was 34.6 percent.

Chad Helmick, M.D., a co-author on the study and medical epidemiologist with CDC, says adults with arthritis and heart disease have unique barriers to being physically active such as concerns about pain, aggravating or worsening joint damage and not knowing how much or what types of physical activity are safe for them.

“These findings suggest that more needs to be done to help people with both heart disease and arthritis get physically active,” said Helmick. “Engaging in regular physical activity can help reduce arthritis pain and improve joint function, which in turn can help people with heart disease get more active and improve heart disease risk factors such as hypertension and cholesterol. Addressing arthritis-specific barriers to physical activity can help adults better manage both conditions.”

Increasing the availability of effective self-management education and physical activity programs, including the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, the Arthritis Foundation’s Exercise Program, and EnhanceFitness™ in communities and health care settings across the country will help to better manage the dual burden of arthritis and heart disease, according to KDHE.  

To learn more about local efforts to address arthritis, please visit www.kdheks.gov, click on the A-Z topic listing and choose “arthritis.” For more information about CDC’s arthritis program, visit www.cdc.gov/arthritis. To learn more about CDC’s heart disease program, visit www.cdc.gov/heartdisease.

Note to editors: Chad Helmick, M.D., a medical epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Adult and Community Health, is available to discuss the study. Please contact the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion's Office of Communication at 770-488-5131 to arrange an interview.