New links between psoriasis and heart disease

March 8, 2009 7:31:54 AM PDT
a university of pennsylvania doctor has won a nearly 4 million dollar federal grant to continue his study of an unusual link - between heart disease and psoriasis. His findings could reach the 7 million people with the skin condition.

Maria Marinari has psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune disease best known for causing inflamed, scaly patches on the skin.

"It started on my hands and then i noticed the sides of my feet," she recalls.

But her skin may not be the only part of the body affected.

Two years after her diagnosis with psoriasis, doctors found a blocked heart artery.

Maria says soberly, "I almost had a heart attack."

Now, a new study from the University of Pennsylvania has sealed a long-suspected link between psoriasis and heart disease.

Dermatologist Dr. Joel Gelfand says, "What we're starting to understand now is, sort of the direct link between people with psoriasis, particularly if it is severe, and the risk of having things like hardened arteries, heart attacks, strokes, and even a higher risk of cardiovascular mortality."

In the study of nearly 700,000 patients, those in their 40s with severe psoriasis more than twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than those without the skin condition.

For those with mild psoriasis, the heart risk was 20-percent higher.

Dermatologist Dr. Joel gelfand says that although the reason for the connection isn't clear, anyone with psoriasis should be checked for cardiovascular risk factors.

Dr. Gelfand says, "Age appropriate screenings with thinks like blood pressure, cholesterol level, glucose, as well as a body weight check."

Maria has also made some healthy changes in her life, such as quitting smoking.

"When you're that lucky to be here, you take advantage of it," she says.

Until there's more information on the link, Dr. Gelfand says patients shouldn't be alarmed, just aware.

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