Psoriasis is a chronic disease that causes red, dry patches of thickened skin on various parts of the body, most commonly on the elbows and knees. Believed to be caused by a malfunction in the immune system, psoriasis can be irritating and uncomfortable, even emotionally devastating, but some forms are particularly serious and severe, causing larger areas of scaling that can be very painful.
Previous studies have shown that psoriasis can be a risk factor for heart attack, mostly for young patients with severe forms of the disease. The connection is the inflammation-psoriasis causes inflammation, and inflammation can cause heart attacks.
“Several hospital-based studies have indicated that psoriasis is associated with a higher prevalence of cardiovascular diseases,” said Joel M. Galdfand, M.D., lead author of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (October 2006).1
Just how much psoriasis increased risk, however, has remained unknown. A recent study, however, found that patients with severe psoriasis have a 53 percent increased incidence of major adverse cardiac events (MACE) like heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death compared to the general population.2 Researchers recommended more aggressive strategies for treatment of cardiovascular risk factors in patients with psoriasis.
What does all this mean? If you have severe psoriasis, talk to your doctor about what you can do to lower your risk of cardiovascular problems. A healthy diet and regular exercise will help, but you may also want to check on your cholesterol levels and make sure your blood pressure is within normal levels. If you smoke, try to stop, and limit your intake of alcohol. If you’re overweight, try to lose a few pounds, as even a 5 to 10 percent loss can help reduce your risk.
Finally, take steps to reduce your levels of inflammation, as that’s where the trouble starts. Omega-3 fatty acids are great for this. Increase your intake of fatty fish like salmon and sardines along with flaxseed and nuts, and consider taking a regular fish oil supplement. Avoid inflammatory fatty foods and above all, think heart healthy!
Do you have severe psoriasis? Have you talked to your doctor about your risk of cardiovascular disease? Please share your story.
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “Penn Researchers Find Psoriasis Patients At Increased Risk For Heart Attack.” ScienceDaily, 13 Oct. 2006. Web. 8 Sep. 2011.
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “Severe psoriasis linked to major adverse cardiovascular events.” ScienceDaily, 27 Jun. 2011. Web. 8 Sep. 2011.
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