Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that inflames areas of skin, causing discomfort, itching, and raised skin lesions. These patches of skin are caused by an abnormally fast turnover of skin cells. This chronic condition can be managed, but not cured. Even if your psoriasis symptoms are under control, it’s important to know that psoriasis can be connected to other heart problems. Psoriasis can be related to chronic skin disease and an increased risk of heart attack.
Psoriasis, like other autoimmune diseases, causes the immune system to overreact to a perceived threat. This immune system reaction then triggers inflammation throughout your body.
Inflammation and Heart Disease
Inflammation can take form in many ways, including reddened patches of skin on your body and psoriatic arthritis. Symptoms can also include conjunctivitis, the inflammation of the lining of your eyelids.
Blood vessels can also become inflamed, a condition that contributes to the development of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of a fatty substance called plaque, inside your artery walls. Plaque slows or interrupts the flow of blood to your heart, which will heighten your risk of heart disease and heart attack.
Psoriasis takes several different forms. Generally, people with any type of psoriasis have a risk of heart attack that is almost three times greater than people without psoriasis. Some psoriasis treatments can result in irregular cholesterol levels, which can harden the arteries and make a heart attack even more likely. Psoriasis patients have also been found to have an increased risk of coronary heart disease, according to the British Journal of Dermatology.
Psoriatic Arthritis and Heart Arrhythmia
Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis will eventually develop psoriatic arthritis. One study linked psoriasis to increased risks of heart arrhythmia, which is an indication of heart problems. This same study concluded that psoriatic arthritis carries a higher risk of arrhythmia.
People who have severe forms of the skin disease and are under the age of 60 are more likely to develop heart disease, according to findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Although psoriasis can mean an increased risk of heart problems, there are plenty of ways to strengthen your heart through diet, exercise, and stress reduction.
Make lifestyle adjustments such as quitting smoking and incorporating daily exercise into your life to increase your heart health. The American Heart Association recommends exercising for 75 to 150 minutes weekly, depending on the intensity level of your workout. As far as the type of exercise, anything goes. Dance, walk, swim, jump rope, or do whatever makes you happy — as long as you get your heart rate pounding.
Vigorous, high-intensity workouts elevate your heart rate to a faster rate for longer periods of time, so you do not need to exercise for quite as many minutes daily. Aim for 30-minute periods of aerobic exercise, but don’t worry if you aren’t able to reach that goal. Shorter walks and jogs benefit your heart health if done on a regular basis.
Stress reduction and exercise can go hand in hand and benefit your cardiovascular system. Stress causes you to tense up and can intensify symptoms of many chronic conditions, including heart disease and psoriasis. Physical activity can release physical and mental tension effectively in many people.
Additionally, relaxation as a practice through deep breathing and visualization can help reduce stress.
Diet and Nutrition
What you eat plays a role in improving heart health, and may have a positive effect on psoriasis too. A heart-healthy diet cuts down on fat and sodium, while eating healthy fats and whole grains. In addition, weight loss has been suggested to reduce the severity of psoriasis symptoms.
Consider making these changes to your diet to improve your heart health:
- Choose whole grain or brown rice, pasta, and bread.
- Limit fried food and baked goods.
- Concentrate on lean proteins such as fish, chicken, and beans.
- Cook with healthy fat, which can be found in olive and flaxseed oils.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for people who have psoriasis and the increased risk of heart disease. Your body can’t make these essential nutrients, so you need to get them through food.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an example of a “healthy fat” that may lower your cholesterol levels and improve your cardiovascular system. Omega-3 fatty acids are building blocks in the production of hormones that help regulate a series of bodily functions. Increasing omega-3 fatty acids in your diet may lower triglyceride levels, meaning your blood vessels are less likely to accumulate the plaque that can leads to heart disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids are mainly found in fatty types of fish, including salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. Shrimp and scallops contain what is sometimes referred to as marine omegas.
Plant food sources of omega-3s include:
- leafy vegetables
- chia seeds
- soy products such as tofu and miso
Fish oil supplements are another way to increase omega-3 intake if you are not getting enough through your diet. Your doctor may advise you to include fish oil supplements in your daily routine if you have a risk factor for heart disease and psoriasis.
Consult your doctor if you have any questions about your chronic skin condition or cardiovascular health.
If you have psoriasis, be proactive about the risk factors by being aware of the signs of a heart attack. Signs of a heart attack include:
- chest pain
- pain in the arms
- neck and jaw area
- shortness of breath
If you experience three or more of these symptoms, or have any other reasons to suspect you are having a heart attack, get professional medical help immediately.
Understanding psoriasis can help you understand your risk of heart problems.
Take the risks seriously by pursuing a healthy lifestyle, through eating well, getting daily exercise, and reducing stress. By being aware of the risk factors that come along with your psoriasis, you are already on the road to taking control of your health.