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People who have lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE) are at a higher risk for plaque deposits in arteries (atherosclerosis) that may cause coronary artery disease (CAD). And they develop these deposits at a younger age. This means that people with lupus are likely to have a greater risk for CAD and for having a heart attack due to a blockage of the blood flow to a part of the heart muscle. For people who have lupus, coronary artery disease is a major cause of illness and death. It's not clear why people with lupus develop early CAD. But it may be related to ongoing inflammation and the response of the immune system.1
To address this increased risk of atherosclerosis, some experts recommend that all people with lupus (regardless of symptoms) be considered at increased risk for coronary artery disease. Research continues for understanding and then guiding treatment of this increased risk.
Last Revised: May 10, 2012
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