How Is Cardiovascular Disease Linked To Psoriasis?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: July 2016.

Cardiovascular disease, also known as heart disease, is a diagnosis that refers to several conditions related to the body’s cardiovascular system. The cardiovascular system includes the heart and all of the blood vessels that carry blood throughout the body1.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes symptoms on the skin. Many studies have shown that people with psoriasis, especially those with severe psoriasis, have an increased risk of developing certain types of cardiovascular disease. For example, one study reported that people with psoriasis are almost three times as likely to have a heart attack than people without psoriasis.

People with psoriasis have a greater chance of developing:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat

How is cardiovascular disease linked to plaque psoriasis?

Researchers are still working to understand exactly why and how people with psoriasis tend to have a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases8. Currently, they think that the type of inflammation that causes the production of excess skin cells in people with psoriasis is also related to the process of atherosclerosis.

Some psoriasis medications can also cause cardiovascular symptoms, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels. The good news is effectively treating psoriasis can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke9. Your healthcare provider can help you select a treatment that will be optimal for reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease10.

What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease among people in the United States. It is linked to a condition called atherosclerosis. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood into the heart and other parts of the body. A fatty substance called plaque can build up in the arteries and cause them to become too narrow. This process can prevent enough blood from flowing through the body1.

If an artery leading to the heart becomes narrowed by plaque and prevents enough blood from flowing to the heart, it can cause chest pain (also called angina). Heart attacks happen when the artery leading into the heart becomes completely blocked by plaque, cutting off the blood flow to part of the heart3.

Some people with CAD do not even know that they have the condition until they have a heart attack. Seek medical care immediately if you develop the following symptoms of a heart attack5:

  • Pain or discomfort in the chest
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
  • Pain or discomfort in an arm or shoulder
  • Weakness, lightheadedness, or feeling faint
  • Shortness of breath

What is peripheral arterial disease?

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a condition in which the arteries that carry blood to the arms and legs develop a buildup of plaque and become narrowed. This is also usually caused by atherosclerosis6.

When the arteries become partially or fully blocked, it prevents blood and oxygen from reaching the arms and legs. This causes symptoms such pain, numbness, and swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet.

What is a stroke?

Stroke is another condition that can be caused by a narrowing or blocking of the arteries. When the affected artery is one that carries blood to the brain, it can cause a sudden loss of blood and oxygen to part of the brain4.

Seek medical care right away if you experience signs or symptoms of stroke, such as:

  • Numbness or inability to move the face, arm, or leg
  • Difficulty seeing and/or speaking
  • Trouble walking
  • Headache

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood as it pushes against the walls of the blood vessels each time the heart pumps. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, happens when the blood pressure rises and then stays high instead of dropping back down as it should. If it is not treated, high blood pressure can cause serious problems such as stroke or heart failure6.

What is irregular heartbeat?

Irregular heartbeat, also known as arrhythmia, can refer to a heartbeat that either is too fast or is too slow. If the heart is not beating regularly, it means that the heart muscle is not moving blood through the body in the usual way7.

It is important to seek treatment right away if you experience an irregular heartbeat. Some types of irregular heartbeat are more severe than others, and in some cases, they can lead to very serious conditions such as stroke.

How is cardiovascular disease treated?

Treatment of cardiovascular disease has two main goals: detecting signs and symptoms of the disease early, and preventing the disease from developing2. The good news is that treating your cardiovascular disease can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, so your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to best treat the condition10.

Generally, patients work with their healthcare provider to treat cardiovascular disease by first making lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes might include quitting smoking, increasing your weekly amount of exercise, and making certain types of changes to your diet11. If these changes are not effective enough, then medications or possibly surgery may be recommended.

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