Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory condition that primarily affects the skin and joints. However, long-lasting inflammation due to psoriasis can affect your heart and blood vessels, increasing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, heart attack, or stroke.
Approximately 2% of people worldwide develop heart disease with psoriasis, with more than 50% of cases presenting in the first three decades of life.
How does psoriasis affect the cardiovascular system?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack healthy cells. In addition to causing plaques to form on the surface of the skin, inflammation in the body can cause damage to the arteries over time.
This results in the formation of blockages or plaques inside the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle. People with psoriasis are therefore at an increased risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
How to reduce the risk of heart disease with psoriasis
If you have psoriasis, seek medical attention for your symptoms and undergo screening for heart disease risk factors. Managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, staying active, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease in the future.
While it is difficult to control a psoriasis flare, you can take steps to manage psoriasis and protect your heart health:
Following a healthy diet can reduce psoriasis symptoms and lower your risk of comorbidities. Eat a heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory diet rich in fatty fish, lean meat, low-fat dairy, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Limit alcohol, salt, processed foods, and trans-fats (present in junk foods and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils).
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity, which can impact both psoriasis symptoms and heart health. All adults are recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) every week or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (such as jogging or swimming).
Incorporating full-body strength training your exercise routine a few days per week can also help you stay physically fit and maintain a healthy weight.
Smoking increases your risk of both psoriasis flares and heart disease. While quitting can be challenging, many people find that combining medications with counseling can help with kicking the habit.
Take medications as prescribed
Medications for psoriasis treatment may have heart-protecting benefits. For example, biologics can reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by suppressing an overactive immune system, which reduces inflammation and plaque buildup in blood vessels.
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Habashy J. Psoriasis. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1943419-overview
National Psoriasis Foundation/USA. Getting at the Heart of Psoriasis. https://www.psoriasis.org/advance/getting-at-the-heart-of-psoriasis/
Jindal S, Jindal N. Psoriasis and Cardiovascular Diseases: A Literature Review to Determine the Causal Relationship. Cureus. 2018;10(2):e2195. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5898839/
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