Psoriasis, an auto-immune disease of the skin with an uncomfortable scaly condition that can cause a buildup of dead skin cells and dry, itchy red patches is much more than a skin disorder. A new wave of research has linked it to a host of chronic medical problems, including cardiovascular disease. The link between psoriasis and cardiovascular disease was always suspected by researchers, but later studies have confirmed it.
In a 2006 study, Mayo Clinic researchers found that the people diagnosed with psoriasis experienced heart attacks more than twice as often as people of the same gender and age in the control group. Those with psoriasis also appeared about 1.42 times more likely to develop heart failure . A study conducted by University of Pennsylvania also suggested that a 60 year old with severe psoriasis had a 36 percent higher chance of a heart attack than a 60 year old without psoriasis. In other words, psoriasis sufferers with no other risk factors for heart disease were still more likely to experience a heart attack. Psoriasis also ups heart attack risk significantly for younger patients. According to this source, those under 40 are 162 per cent more likely than average to die of a condition associated with heart disease, while the risk is 50 per cent greater on average for all those diagnosed with psoriasis. The risk is 91 per cent greater for severe psoriasis sufferers aged 40-59 and 37 per cent greater for those over 60. The findings have implications not only for those who suffer from this debilitating skin condition, but also for their closest blood relatives; for even if they show no signs of psoriasis, the genetic link could put them in line for heart disease.
More evidence has since confirmed this link. In a 2009 study in the Archives of Dermatology, researchers compared 3246 people (mostly men) with psoriasis with 2500 people without the condition. They found that people with psoriasis were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with at least one atherosclerotic disease- including coronary heart disease (CHD) and heart attack, cerebrovasular disease (which can lead to stroke), an peripheral artery disease (narrowed arteries supplying blood to the extremities). And a new analysis of data from roughly 78,000 women in the ongoing Nurses Health Study II indicates that women with psoriasis are 63 percent more likely to develop hypertension.
The fact that people with psoriasis exhibit this increased risk for heart disease offers additional proof that psoriasis is a systemic inflammatory disease rather than just a skin disorder.
What to do
It is not clear whether treating psoriasis will protect your heart. But some research has shown that people taking the drug methotrexate - sometimes used to treat psoriasis - are less likely to develop CHD. Also if psoriasis sufferers adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle, their chances of developing heart disease is considerably reduced.
Resources to check out: National Psoriasis Foundation