Adapted from a presentation at the SLE Workshop at Hospital for Special Surgery

Virginia Haiduc, MD
CVD Prevention Program Coordinator

Monica Richey, MSN, ANP-BC/GNP
CVD Prevention Program and Lupus Center Nurse Practitioner
Division of Rheumatology, Hospital for Special Surgery




In September of 2009, Dr. Virginia Haiduc and Lupus Center Nurse Practitioner Monica Richey led a presentation to the SLE Workshop focused on cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention for patients with lupus. The purpose of the presentation was threefold:

  1. To raise awareness of the impact of heart disease for patients with lupus. 
  2. To discuss the risk factors and strategies that can help patients with lupus live a heart-healthy lifestyle. 
  3. To describe the CVD Prevention Counseling Program, which is jointly supported by the Hospital for Special Surgery Lupus Center and the NY Community Trust.

Dr. Haiduc introduced the presentation by defining what is meant by CVD. She then described some of the important non-modifiable (unchangeable) CVD risk factors of which individuals with lupus should be aware. Next, Lupus Center Nurse Practitioner Monica Richey addressed the CVD risk factors that can be modified or changed, and some of the prevention strategies involved.

What is Cardiovascular Disease (CVD?)

Dr. Haiduc explained that CVD occurs in both the heart and blood vessels, where two common forms of CVD are heart attack and stroke. Heart attacks are caused by blockage of the arteries that feed the heart. Strokes are caused by a break or blockage of the arteries that feed the brain. Overall, CVD is the leading cause of death for both women and men in United States and has been shown to be prevalent among patients with lupus.

Lupus and CVD

Dr. Haiduc next shared to the group some key facts that are associated with lupus and CVD.

CVD Risk Factors in Those with Lupus

As the above statistics dramatically illustrate, having lupus can put individuals at a higher risk of developing CVD. The next section of the presentation focused primarily on risk factors: What are risk factors? What important factors should patients with lupus be aware of?

Risk factors are factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing a disease. The more risk factors one has, the higher one’s chances of getting a disease.

Dr. Haiduc explained that there are two types of risk factors: non-modifiable and modifiable. Non-modifiable risk factors are factors that cannot be changed, while modifiable risk factors are factors that can be changed or treated.

Some non-modifiable risk factors for CVD include age, gender, race, and family history of CVD. As you can see, these are components of one’s life that cannot be changed or prevented: 

There are many factors, however, that patients with lupus can change and should be aware of to decrease their risk for CVD.

Next, Lupus Center Nurse Practitioner Monica Richey spoke in great detail about the variety of modifiable risk factors of CVD that individuals with lupus should be aware of, as well as some important steps to eliminate and treat these “changeable” situations.

Some modifiable risk factors for CVD include the following:

Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

The presenters next focused on CVD prevention in patients. They both underscored the importance of knowing your risk factors and how (when possible) to minimize or prevent these from occurring.

With all of these health concerns in mind, Ms. Richey stressed that there is a lot we can do to lessen our risks of CVD. Some examples include the following:

Watching Out for Symptoms of Heart Attack and Stroke

Ms. Richey concluded the presentation by briefly discussing some key indicators that patients should be aware of regarding heart attack and stroke.

Medications that can be used for cardiovascular disease prevention were beyond the scope of this presentation; patients are encouraged to discuss the potentially useful medications with their primary care physicians or rheumatologists.

Be aware of the symptoms of a possible heart attack:

Symptoms of stroke include the following:


1. Ward MM, Premature morbidity from cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases in women with systemic lupus erythematosus, Arthritis Rheum 1999; 42:338

2. Esdaile JM, Abrahamowicz M, Grodzicky T et al., Traditional Framingham risk factors fail to fully account for accelerated atherosclerosis in systemic lupus erythematosus, Arthritis Rheum 2001; 44:2331

3. Manzi S, Meilahn EN, Rairie JE et al., Age-specific incidence rates of myocardial infarction and angina in women with systemic lupus erythematosus: comparison with the Framingham Study, Am J Epidemiol 1997; 145:408


Learn more about the HSS SLE Workshop, a free support and education group held monthly for people with lupus and their families and friends.

Summary written by Christie Carlstrom, SLE Workshop Coordinator and Social Work Intern at HSS.


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