If you have the autoimmune disease psoriasis, you’re all too familiar with the red, raised skin lesions, silvery scales and itchy, dry skin caused by it. You know your immune system is responsible for this condition—a chronic condition that can be managed, but not cured. But are you aware of how this condition connects to your heart health?
Of course, everyone should be vigilant in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. However, people with psoriasis should be extra careful due to a link between this chronic skin disease and an increased risk of heart attack.
Psoriasis occurs when your immune system overacts to a perceived threat, triggering inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation can take form in many ways, including reddened patches of skin on your body, as well as psoriatic arthritis.
Your blood vessels can also become inflamed, a condition that contributes to the development of atherosclerosis, the buildup of a fatty substance called plaque, inside your artery walls. Plaque slows or interrupts the flow of blood to your heart, which can heighten your risk of heart disease and heart attack.
People who have severe forms of the skin disease and are under the age of 60 are more likely to develop heart disease, according to findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
If you have psoriasis and fall into this age group, it’s important to know there are plenty of ways to strengthen your heart through diet, exercise and stress reduction. Maintaining the best treatments for your psoriasis, as prescribed by your doctor or board-certified dermatologist, will help relieve the discomfort and stress you might experience otherwise. With the guidance provided by them, you can better understand how important your role is in managing your condition.
Reduce the Risk of Heart Attack
Make lifestyle adjustments that include consistent daily exercise. If you smoke, give it up now. The American Heart Association recommends exercising for 75 to 150 minutes weekly, depending on the intensity level of your workout. Choose the exercise you like; dance, walk, swim, jump rope, play soccer or do whatever makes you happy as long as you get your heart rate pounding.
Vigorous, high-intensity workouts elevate your heart rate to a faster rate for longer periods of time, so you don’t need to exercise for as long daily. Try for 30-minute periods of aerobic exercise, but don’t worry if you aren’t able to reach that goal. Shorter walks and jogs benefit your heart health if done on a regular basis.
Decrease Your Stress
Stress reduction and exercise can go hand in hand and benefit your cardiovascular system. Stress causes you to tense up and can intensify symptoms of many chronic conditions, including heart disease and psoriasis. Physical activity can release physical and mental tension effectively.
Eliminating stress in other ways may lower your risk of heart attack and psoriasis flares.
- Think positively about events and people.
- Laugh and have fun.
- Get at least eight hours of sleep every night.
- Practice relaxation through deep breathing and visualization.
Stick to a Smart Diet
Diet plays a major role in improving heart health and having a positive effect on psoriasis too. A heart-healthy diet cuts down on fat and sodium while eating healthy fats and whole grains. Consider making these changes to your diet to improve how you look and feel.
- Switch to low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
- Choose whole grain or brown rice, pasta and bread.
- Limit fried food and fat-laden baked goods.
- Concentrate on lean proteins such as fish, chicken and beans.
- Cook with healthy fat, which can be found in olive and flaxseed oils.
Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for people who have psoriasis and the increased risk of heart disease. Your body can’t make these essential nutrients, so you need to get them through food.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an example of a “healthy fat” that may lower your cholesterol levels and improve your cardiovascular system. Omega-3 fatty acids are building blocks in the production of hormones that help regulate a series of bodily functions. Increasing Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet may lower triglyceride levels, meaning your blood vessels are less likely to accumulate the plaque that can leads to heart disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids are mainly found in fatty types of fish, including salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines. Shrimp and scallops contain what is sometimes referred to as marine omegas.
Plant food sources of Omega-3s include
- leafy vegetables
- soy products such as tofu and miso
Fish oil supplements are another way to increase omega-3 intake if you are not getting enough through your diet. Your doctor may advise you to include fish oil supplements in your daily routine if you have a risk factor for heart disease and psoriasis.
Take It to Heart
Heart disease is nothing to take lightly, and learning that you have an increased risk due to psoriasis can be a daunting caution signal. Take the risks seriously by vigilantly improving your lifestyle but without letting it stress you out. Consult your doctor or your board-certified dermatologist if you have any questions about your psoriasis and cardiovascular health.