Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in the body. This can affect organs such as the heart and may link to risk factors for heart disease.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition affecting the skin. An overactive immune system causes inflammation and speeds up the growth of skin cells.

This leads to skin cells growing much more quickly than usual, causing layers of skin cells to build up on the surface of the skin and form plaques or scales.

Inflammation from psoriasis can also affect other areas of the body, such as joints, tissues, and organs. People with severe psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis (PsA) may have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease due to chronic inflammation.

This article looks at the link between psoriasis and heart and blood vessel disease, treatment options, and steps people can take to reduce the risk.

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According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, chronic inflammation from psoriasis can lead to a buildup of fat and cholesterol in the arteries, which can narrow and block them. This can increase the risk of heart disease.

According to a 2018 review, there is a link between people with psoriasis and risk factors for heart disease, including:

The risk is higher for those with severe psoriasis or PsA.

Learn how PsA affects the body here.

Chronic inflammation from psoriasis can affect the heart and blood vessels. This risk does not appear to affect people with mild psoriasis, and treating moderate to severe psoriasis may help reduce the risk.

People with psoriatic arthritis have an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. This is a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

A doctor will likely diagnose a person with metabolic syndrome if they have three or more of the following:

Psoriasis may cause heart rhythm disorders, such as arrhythmia. This may be due to inflammation and oxidative stress, which may alter heart function. Certain drugs, such as corticosteroids, may also cause arrhythmia.

Learn how oxidative stress affects the body here.

If a person has psoriasis, taking the following steps might help reduce the risk of heart disease:

  • having a checkup with a doctor to assess any risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, or a family history of cardiovascular disease
  • managing psoriasis with a treatment plan, which may involve medications that also help to lower the risk of heart disease
  • doing regular exercise with at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day
  • drinking 2–3 liters of water each day
  • avoiding smoking
  • limiting alcohol consumption
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • eating moderate portion sizes
  • consuming a balanced diet, which might include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low fat dairy, and lean protein
  • limiting the intake of saturated or trans fats and replacing them with monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil
  • managing stress, using relaxation techniques, enjoying a hobby, or taking exercise

Learn about how diet can help psoriasis here.

Some medications for treating moderate to severe psoriasis may also help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Medications include:

A doctor will first need to assess whether these medications are suitable for people, as they can have side effects.

Biologics block a certain protein in the immune system called tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), which plays a large role in the development of psoriasis.

Medications that block TNF have shown a significant impact on inflammation in the blood, which may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Phototherapy, or light therapy, for psoriasis may also be effective in improving good cholesterol levels, inflammatory markers, and how the body breaks down lipids.

Learn more about biologics for psoriasis here.

People with psoriasis need to work alongside a doctor to create a treatment plan that is best for them. This may include lifestyle changes, medications, and topical treatments.

People will need immediate medical attention if they have any signs or symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, which include:

  • sudden, severe pain in the chest, neck, jaw, or shoulder which does not go away
  • shortness of breath that does not ease with rest
  • nausea, indigestion, or vomiting
  • sweating or skin feels cool and clammy
  • feeling fearful or anxious
  • sudden weakness or numbness in one side of the body, which can include the face, arms, and legs
  • sudden changes in vision
  • sudden state of confusion or difficulty communicating, even if this is temporary

Learn the difference between a stroke and a heart attack here.

Treating psoriasis may help reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.

Mild psoriasis may not increase the risk of heart problems. Treatment for moderate or severe psoriasis may result in fewer heart attacks, strokes, and fatalities related to heart issues.

Managing psoriasis and taking preventive measures, such as regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and lowering stress, may also help reduce the risk of heart problems.

Learn about some home remedies to treat psoriasis and how to avoid triggers here.

Psoriasis causes chronic inflammation that can affect tissues and organs throughout the body, including the heart and blood vessels.

Long-term inflammation can cause narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels and lead to cardiovascular problems.

Lifestyle changes, medications, and psoriasis treatments may help reduce the risk.