Can psoriasis increase my chances of a heart attack?

Lifestyle Choices and Psoriasis

Even if psoriasis runs in your family, there's no need wait in fear for an inevitable heart attack. Yes, learning that psoriasis might lead to a heart attack can be downright disturbing. But you should note that the studies exploring the possible link between psoriasis and heart attack were funded by drug manufacturers. Some of them say they've come up with a single medication that simultaneously treats psoriasis and atherosclerosis, which leads some to question the motive behind their reports. What's more, it's in your power to make healthy lifestyle choices that will help you deal with psoriasis and the risk of heart attack. Doctors advise those who have psoriasis not to stress over its potential link to heart attack but rather focus on the factors they can control.

Making smart lifestyle choices can keep psoriasis and heart disease in check. These factors can aggravate psoriasis and lead to a heart attack, both in psoriasis patients and those who do not have the disease:

  • a history of nicotine use
  • heavy drinking
  • being overweight
  • high blood pressure
  • elevated cholesterol levels
  • a sedentary lifestyle
  • stress

[source: American Academy of Dermatology]

Medical researchers have discovered quite a bit of information about psoriasis and heart attack. One found that mild psoriasis doesn't often lead to an increased risk of heart attack, but patients with moderate to severe psoriasis are at greater risk [source: Mundell]. Another study determined that people with psoriasis under age 40 are at an even greater risk of dying from a condition associated with heart disease -- their risk is 162 percent higher than those without psoriasis [source: Petty]. Researchers are also exploring the relationship between psoriasis and an array of other diseases like lupus and diabetes, which can also be fatal.

As we learned earlier, psoriasis was considered merely a skin condition in the past, which may make it difficult for some people with psoriasis to get the help they need treating co-existing conditions. Since many patients consider psoriasis a skin disease, they depend on their dermatologists quite a bit -- even for advice that a primary care doctor would normally provide. But using a dermatologist as a one-stop shop for medical care makes it difficult for people to get the most appropriate treatment for conditions that are usually treated by other types of doctors, like those specializing in cardiology [source: Collins].

Find out about treatments for psoriasis that may help combat the risk of heart attack in the next section.