Men with AS (ankylosing spondylitis) are at elevated risk for CHD (coronary heart disease) but information on risk factors is sparse. We compared a range of conventional and novel risk factors in men with AS in comparison with healthy controls and, in particular, determined the influence of systemic inflammation. Twenty-seven men with confirmed AS and 19 controls matched for age were recruited. None of the men was taking lipid-lowering therapy. Risk factors inclusive of plasma lipids, IL-6 (interleukin-6), CRP (C-reactive protein), vWF (von Willebrand factor), fibrin D-dimer, ICAM-1 (intercellular cell-adhesion molecule-1) and fibrinogen were measured, and blood pressure and BMI (body mass index) were determined by standard techniques. A high proportion (70%) of men with AS were smokers compared with 37% of controls (P=0.024). The AS patients also had a higher BMI. In analyses adjusted for BMI and smoking, men with AS had significantly higher IL-6 and CRP (approx. 9- and 6-fold elevated respectively; P<0.001), fibrinogen (P=0.013) and vWF (P=0.008). Total cholesterol and HDL-C (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) were lower (P<0.05 and P=0.073 respectively) in AS and thus the ratio was not different. Pulse pressure was also significantly higher in AS (P=0.007). Notably, adjustment for IL-6 and CRP levels rendered all case-control risk factor differences, except pulse pressure, non-significant. In accordance with this finding, IL-6 correlated positively (r=0.74, P<0.001) with fibrinogen, but negatively (r=−0.46, P=0.016) with total cholesterol concentration. In conclusion, men with AS have perturbances in several CHD risk factors, which appear to be driven principally by systemic inflammatory mediators. Inflammation-driven atherogenesis potentially contributes to the excess CHD risk in AS.

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