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Does treating psoriasis reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke?

Psoriasis on knees
If you’re wondering whether to treat psoriasis, you may now have two more good reasons: Reducing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Treating psoriasis may help more than your skin. Treatment may also reduce your risk of having a stroke or heart attack. It may even lower the likelihood of heart failure.

Why could treating psoriasis reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke?

Psoriasis causes inflammation on your skin and inside your body. Long-lasting inflammation inside your body may affect your heart and blood vessels, putting you at greater risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke.

Findings from research studies suggest that this increased risk affects people who have moderate or severe psoriasis. Mild psoriasis doesn’t seem to increase the risk.

The findings from some of these studies also suggest that people who treat moderate or severe psoriasis have:

  • Fewer heart attacks

  • Fewer strokes

  • Fewer heart-related deaths

The research in this area is ongoing because not every study reached this conclusion.

Which psoriasis medications may have heart-health benefits?

The psoriasis medications that may reduce the risk of heart and blood vessel diseases are prescribed to treat moderate or severe psoriasis. These medications include:

These are potent medications that have possible side effects. For this reason, a dermatologist screens each patient carefully before prescribing one of these medications. Even if you have an increased risk of heart or blood vessel disease, one of these medications may not be suitable for you.

What else can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke?

Until researchers know more about the role that psoriasis may play in increasing the risk of heart and blood vessel diseases, dermatologists recommend the following:

  1. Make an appointment with your primary care doctor. Ask your doctor if you have any risk factors for heart or blood vessel disease. These risk factors include:
    • High blood pressure
    • Unhealthy cholesterol levels
    • Close blood relatives who have had a heart attack, stroke, or other condition that affects the heart or blood vessels

    Your doctor may recommend some tests, such as a blood test to check your cholesterol. If your check-up reveals any risk factors, your doctor can help you lower these risks with lifestyle changes, medication, or both.

    Talk to your doctor

    Tell your primary care doctor if you have psoriasis to avoid drug interactions or triggering psoriasis.

    Primary care physician with patient

  2. Lead a healthy lifestyle. Even if you don’t have an increased risk of developing a heart or blood vessel disease, leading a healthy lifestyle can help you manage your psoriasis.
  3. You’ll find lifestyle recommendations that dermatologists suggest at: Healthy diet and other lifestyle changes that can improve psoriasis.

    If you need to make many lifestyle changes to lead a healthy lifestyle, this can feel overwhelming. The key is to start small and gradually increase how much you do.

    If you’re having trouble getting started, talking with your primary care doctor or dermatologist can help. A doctor can often tell you which changes can benefit you the most.

  4. See a board-certified dermatologist to find the best psoriasis treatment plan for you. While some psoriasis medications may lower the risk of heart and blood vessel diseases, dermatologists consider a patient’s overall health before deciding how to treat psoriasis.
  5. A board-certified dermatologist considers many factors, including your:

    • Age
    • Other medical conditions
    • Risk for developing other medical conditions
    • Response to past treatments for psoriasis
    • Concerns about how psoriasis affects your life
    • Other medications

    As one dermatologist who is studying the link between psoriasis and cardiovascular diseases says, “Managing your psoriasis involves more than improving your skin. It’s about caring for your entire well-being.”

Getty Images

American Academy of Dermatology. “Treating psoriasis may improve related cardiovascular symptoms.” News release issued July 28, 2016. Last accessed November 30, 2018.

Egeberg A, Skov L, et al. “The relationship between duration of psoriasis, vascular inflammation, and cardiovascular events.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;77:650-6.

Hugh J, Van Voorhees AS, et al. “From the Medical Board of the National Psoriasis Foundation: The risk of cardiovascular disease in individuals with psoriasis and the potential impact of current therapies.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014;70:168-77. 

Alexander Kaushik SB and Lebwohl MG. “CME part I psoriasis: Which therapy for which patient? Psoriasis comorbidities and preferred systemic agents.” J Am Acad Dermatol. Published Online: July 12, 2018 (doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2018.06.057).