Psoriasis Increases Risk of Heart Attack
Researchers Believe They Know Why
studies found that psoriasis might increase a person’s risk of
having a heart attack, researchers wanted to know why. Do people
living with psoriasis just have more risk factors for heart disease?
Studies have shown this. Or, is it the psoriasis itself?
To find out, a multi-year study followed more than 600,000 patients.
Of these patients, 130,976 had psoriasis and 556,995 did not.
Including patients without psoriasis allowed researchers to study
whether or not psoriasis is a risk factor for heart disease.
Patients’ ages ranged from 20 to 90 years.
What researchers discovered suggests that psoriasis itself is a risk
factor for heart disease. One finding in particular supports this
conclusion. The younger patients with severe psoriasis had a
slightly higher risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) than young
people without psoriasis. CAD develops when arteries that supply
blood to the heart harden and narrow, which reduces blood flow to
While CAD is a risk factor for a heart attack, the risk of a young
person — with or without psoriasis — having a heart attack is low.
The risk for heart disease universally increases with age.
Why Psoriasis seems to be a Risk Factor
For psoriasis to develop, the person’s immune system must overreact
and send faulty signals. This leads to inflammation throughout the
body. Studies suggest that inflammation contributes to
atherosclerosis (ath-uh-roh-skleh-RO-sis), which occurs when plaque
builds up in the blood. The plaque that builds up in the blood is
made up of fat, cholesterol, and other substances found in the
blood. As the plaque builds, arteries narrow. This reduces blood
flow to the heart.
Inflammation also seems to be the reason that people living with
rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of developing
cardiovascular disease. Like psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis is an
autoimmune condition that causes inflammation within the body.
Research shows that the more severe the rheumatoid arthritis, the
greater the risk of dying from heart disease.
Dermatologists caution that these findings should certainly not
alarm people living with psoriasis. While inflammation appears to
increase the risk of a heart attack, researchers do not have all the
facts. Quite possibly other risk factors for heart disease are
needed to trigger a heart attack. Many of these risk factors for a
heart attack can be controlled.
Risk Factors Within Our Control
The following lists actions we can take to reduce our risk factors
for heart disease. How many changes could you make to reduce your
cholesterol levels below 240 mg/dL
pressure below 120/80
Lead a physically
Diet and exercise
so that you are not obese or overweight
(Men should limit consumption to two drinks per day; women should
not have more than one drink per day. One drink equals 1 ounce of
liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.)
Learn and practice
healthy ways of coping with stress
(Unhealthy ways of coping include overeating, smoking, and turning
to alcohol for stress relief.)
risk factors is the first step to gaining control. If you have
checked off several actions, the changes needed to reduce your risk
may seem overwhelming. Sharing the results with your dermatologist
or primary care physician may be a good place to begin. Working
together with your doctor, the two of you may be able to develop a
plan for lowering your overall risk.
Gelfand et al. “Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Patients with
Psoriasis.” Journal of the American Medical Association.
2006. October 11;296(14):1735-41.
Mayo Clinic. “Heart attack: Risk factors.” Last accessed March 7,
All content solely
developed by the American Academy of Dermatology
For an overview, visit
the AAD pamphlet
Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis.