Worse Psoriasis, Less Healthy Arteries, Study Finds
By Steven Reinberg
“As the amount of psoriasis increases, the amount of blood vessel inflammation increases,” said senior investigator Dr. Nehal Mehta, a clinical investigator with the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
His team also found that even mild psoriasis may indicate an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
Just one psoriasis skin patch, or plaque, “might be biologically active, causing low-grade inflammation and starting a cascade, speeding up their blood vessel disease,” Mehta said.
“People really should know that psoriasis is not just a cosmetic disease,” he added.
However, these study findings only show an association between psoriasis and blood vessel inflammation, not a direct cause-and-effect relationship, Mehta said. His team is now conducting a study to see if treating psoriasis lowers blood vessel inflammation.
Psoriasis is a chronic disease that affects about 3 percent of U.S. adults. It occurs when skin cells grow too quickly, causing thick, white or red patches of skin.
Blood vessel, or vascular, inflammation is most likely the direct result of psoriasis, not treatment, Mehta said.
Previous research has found that psoriasis may be linked with a greater risk of heart attack and stroke and heart disease-related death. This new study may be the first to examine if psoriasis severity affects inflammation in the blood vessels, Mehta said.
Inflammation can cause blood vessels, including arteries, to narrow, which limits blood flow, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Mehta advises people with psoriasis to lower their risk of heart disease by controlling traditional risk factors.
“Avoid smoking, try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including moderate exercise and a balanced diet,” he said. “You should also have your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar checked. Try to do that, because psoriasis itself might be a risk factor.”
For the study, published online Oct. 8 in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, researchers compared 60 adults with psoriasis to 20 people without the condition. All participants were in their 40s on average and at low risk for heart disease.