Cardiopulmonary disease is a particular hazard for people with rheumatoid arthritis, tripling their mortality risk, a population-based study has found.

People with newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis suffer disproportionately from comorbid illness. The researchers sought to explore the association with early mortality, lung disease and joint destruction, among other issues.

When compared with peers without rheumatoid arthritis, COPD, but not asthma, was tied to heightened mortality. The study participants also faced greater odds of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, previous fracture and depression. There was no association for joint destruction, reported corresponding author Karim Raza, Ph.D., and colleagues, of the University of Birmingham, U.K.

“COPD is a major predictor of early mortality in early rheumatoid arthritis,” wrote Raza. “Early assessment of comorbidity including lung disease should form part of the routine management of [these] patients,” he concluded.