Study: Psoriasis, metabolic syndrome combo may increase heart disease risk

Study: Psoriasis, metabolic syndrome combo may increase heart disease risk
Metabolic syndrome in people with psoriasis may contribute to their increased risk for heart disease, according to a new study. Photo by Psoriasis-Netz/Flickr

Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The presence of metabolic syndrome in people with psoriasis may contribute to an increased risk of heart disease, according to a study published Monday by the Journal of the American Association of Dermatology.

People with both conditions may have higher levels of visceral fat tissue, a known risk factor for heart disease, the researchers said.


The findings could lead to new ways to help prevent cardiovascular disease among those with psoriasis, the researchers said.

"Metabolic syndrome, so common among our psoriasis patients, drives up coronary artery disease in this population by increasing the plaque buildup that clogs the heart's arteries," study co-author Dr. Nehal N. Mehta said in a statement.

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"Our study shows that, of the metabolic syndrome components, hypertension and obesity contribute the most to coronary plaque buildup, and hence can be good targets for intervention," said Mehta, head of the Lab of Inflammation and Cardiometabolic Diseases at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that affects up to 3% of adults in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The condition has long been linked with an increased risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. This is because it can speed plaque buildup that clogs arteries, in addition to worsening blood-vessel and systemic inflammation, Mehta and his colleagues said.

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About one in four people in the United States has metabolic syndrome, a condition that includes obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, the NIH estimates.

The condition is even more common among people with psoriasis, according to Mehta and his colleagues.

For the new analysis, researchers conducted an observational study of 260 patients with psoriasis, 80 of whom also met the criteria for metabolic syndrome.

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All participants underwent computed tomography scanning to create images of their coronary arteries, the researchers said.

Systemic inflammation, insulin resistance and blood cholesterol were significantly higher in the participants who had both psoriasis and metabolic syndrome, the study found.

Those with metabolic syndrome also had higher coronary artery plaque buildup, which increases a person's risk for heart attack, the researchers said.

Excess visceral fat tissue, or abdominal fat, in patients with both conditions also was associated with worse outward symptoms of metabolic syndrome, such as larger waist circumference, higher blood pressure and higher cholesterol, they said.

High abdominal fat is a known risk factor for heart disease in the general population and for increased plaque buildup in the arteries of psoriasis patients, the researchers said.

Because this was an observational study, the researchers cannot establish cause-effect links between metabolic syndrome and heart disease risk among people with psoriasis, according to Mehta.


However, the findings provide strong evidence that psoriasis patients with metabolic syndrome have high levels of heart disease-producing plaque in their arteries, he said.

It's possible that identifying metabolic syndrome, especially larger waist circumference, in people with psoriasis can significantly help to measure abdominal fat levels and assess heart disease risk in people with psoriasis, according to Mehta and his colleagues.

"In psoriasis patients, traditional risk factors of cardiovascular disease, such as age, do not relate strongly to cardiovascular risk as in the general population," Mehta said.

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