Knee Osteoarthritis Raises Risk of Early Death

By Pat Anson, Editor

Osteoarthritis is painful no matter where it occurs – in the hip, fingers, elbow or other joints. But osteoarthritis of the knee seems to be particularly troublesome for middle-aged women. 

British researchers say knee osteoarthritis significantly raises the risk of cardiovascular disease and can even lead to early death.

In a study of early mortality in middle-aged women with osteoarthritis, researchers looked at data collected by the Chingford Study, which followed the health over 1,000 British middle-aged women for over two decades.

They found that osteoarthritis of the knee was strongly associated with early overall death and cardiovascular mortality. Women with knee pain and radiographic osteoarthritis had almost two times greater risk of early death and over three-times increased risk of dying from a cardiovascular event, when compared with women without knee pain or osteoarthritis. 

No link was found between hand osteoarthritis and a higher risk of mortality. 

“These findings suggest that any self-reported knee pain in osteoarthritis, as opposed to hand pain, seems to be a crucial factor leading to early cardiovascular mortality and is likely to be linked with decreased mobility. Radiographic osteoarthritis without pain is not affecting long-term mortality. More research is needed to understand how people adapt to knee pain, and how this leads to cardiovascular impairment,” said lead author Stefan Kluzek, PhD, of the Arthritis Research UK Centre of Excellence for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis at the University of Oxford.

Researchers did not examine the reasons for the higher death rate, but an earlier look at data from the Chingford study found that women with knee OA were more likely to have hypertension, raised blood glucose, and moderately raised serum cholesterol.

Osteoarthritis is a joint disorder that leads to thinning of cartilage and progressive joint damage. Knee osteoarthritis is quite common and affects over 250 million people worldwide. Nearly 40 percent of Americans over the age of 45 have some degree of knee OA, and those numbers are expected to grow as the population ages.