Skin and stroke: not typically relatives. But increasing evidence shows a connection between psoriasis – a chronic skin condition that causes dry and itchy patches of skin – and a higher risk of stroke and other cardiovascular disorders, according to an article published in Cureus. The researchers suggest that the chronic inflammation associated with psoriasis is also correlated to strokes and other cardiovascular diseases. However, even with an increased stroke risk there are still things you can do to stay as healthy as possible.
After an extensive review of the evidence, the authors of this study believe that those of us with psoriasis are more likely to have increased cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity compared to the general population. The risks are even higher if we have severe psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. In two different studies of psoriatic arthritis that were included in the review, death was more likely than in the control groups, and cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death.
The authors of the review believe there may be a variety of reasons psoriasis and stroke are related. One reason is that severe psoriasis is associated with an increased prevalence of metabolic syndrome, a chronic inflammatory state. The inflammation that is present with psoriasis is also linked to elevated levels of C-reactive protein, which is an independent risk factor of cardiovascular disease. Psoriasis is also associated with other health risks such as obesity and an increase in cholesterol levels that could lower the quality of life.
The good news is that stroke is largely preventable by lowering your risks. This can be done by what is referred to as Life’s Simple 7. These anti-stroke behaviors include not smoking, being physically active, maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a healthy diet, controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
If you are living with psoriasis, you should also go a step further by making sure that your psoriatic disease is being treated as well as possible. The inflammation that you see on your skin begins below the skin, so you want to make sure that you are treating the inflammation throughout your body. These latest findings led the study investigators to suggest that psoriasis should be treated systemically with methotrexate or biological drugs to reduce stroke risk.
You may also want to talk to your doctor about measuring and determining your overall stroke risk. Your doctor can determine if you are at low, moderate, or high risk of stroke. If you are at a high risk of stroke due to a variety of risk factors, you may want to discuss therapeutic interventions directly related to stroke prevention with your doctor.