What Psoriatic Arthritis May Be Doing to Your Heart
Psoriatic arthritis can increase your risk for cardiovascular conditions, but there are things you can do to stay heart-healthy.
By Jennifer Acosta Scott
Medically Reviewed by Sanjai Sinha, MD
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When you havepsoriatic arthritis, you’re well aware of its aches and pains: sore hands, back discomfort, and stiffness all over. But you might not know that having psoriatic arthritis can increase your risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Studieshave shown that people with psoriatic arthritis are more likely to experience certain cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure or hypertension, heart attack (technically myocardial infarction), and a type of chest pain known as angina. These conditions, which can be quite serious, are side effects of the inflammation common with bothpsoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
“When we do blood tests on these patients, we find increased levels of proteins and cytokines,” says Srinivas Murali, MD, a cardiologist and medical director at the Allegheny Health Network McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute in Pittsburgh. “These are indicators that there is a high level of inflammation. This is a driver for atherosclerosis [plaque buildup in the arteries], which can result in heart attacks and other conditions.”
What’s more, the elevated risk for cardiovascular disease is in addition to any other risk factors you may have.
“If someone already has a family history of hypertension and they add psoriatic arthritis on top of it, it incrementally affects the risk,” Dr. Murali says.
But there are steps you can take to reduce your risk for cardiovascular problems when you have psoriatic arthritis. Here are ways to stay as heart-healthy as possible:
Take your medication.If you're on medications to help control yourpsoriatic arthritis symptoms, make sure to continue taking them just as your doctor prescribed. “There’s some evidence to suggest the risk of developing heart disease goes down as the degree of inflammation goes down,” Murali says.
Improve your health in other areas.If you have other risk factors for heart disease, like high cholesterol, a smoking habit, or obesity, taking steps to minimize them can benefit your heart health. “If you are a diabetic, you want to make sure your sugar is well-controlled,” Murali says. “If you have high cholesterol, you need to get that under control with appropriate medications and diet. It’s no different than for anyone else who has those risk factors.”
See your doctor regularly.Don’t neglect regular visits with the doctor who is treating your psoriatic arthritis. Your doctor can helpmanage your psoriatic arthritisand track it with specific diagnostic tools. A rheumatologist may also check your blood levels of osteopontin, homocysteine, C-reactive protein, and interleukin 6 — all markers of inflammation. High levels may indicate that you need a change in your treatment.
Practice general heart health.The lifestyle changes that everyone needs to follow for cardiovascular well-being are no different for people with psoriatic arthritis. Make sure to maintain a healthy weight and eat a diet that is low in saturated fat and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink, because it can increase blood pressure. Regular exercise is also important. If you find that your psoriatic arthritis makes exercise difficult, try low-impact activities like walking or swimming.
Recognizing that your risk for cardiovascular disease is elevated is half the battle. “You do need to have a higher degree of awareness,” Murali says.
Video: New Therapies for Effectively Treating Psoriatic Arthritis
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