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People with metabolic syndrome and the skin condition psoriasis are at especially high risk for heart attack and stroke, a new study warns.
Psoriasis has been known to increase the risk of heart disease, but researchers have now pegged metabolic syndrome as a key reason.
Metabolic syndrome is a condition that includes obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure -- all big risk factors for heart disease. It is common among psoriasis patients, according to a team from the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
The researchers said the new findings might lead to new ways to help prevent heart disease in people with psoriasis.
"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," said study author Dr. Nehal Mehta, head of the NHLBI's Lab of Inflammation and Cardiometabolic Diseases.
He said the study shows two components of metabolic syndrome -- high blood pressure and obesity -- contribute most to artery-clogging plaques and, therefore, can be good targets for intervention.
Psoriasis worsens vascular and systemic inflammation and not only increases but speeds up atherosclerosis.
Mehta and his team collected data on 260 psoriasis patients, including 80 with metabolic syndrome.
The researchers found that inflammation, insulin resistance, and blood cholesterol were significantly higher in those who had both psoriasis and metabolic syndrome. Those with metabolic syndrome had higher buildup of plaque in their arteries, putting them at high risk for heart attack.
"Even after adjusting for individual [metabolic syndrome] factors, blood pressure and obesity assessed by waist circumference were the most significant links to coronary plaque buildup," Mehta said in a NHLBI news release.
Belly fat was linked to waist size, blood pressure, triglycerides, and high cholesterol, researchers found.
The study, Mehta said, demonstrates a critical link between excessive belly fat and metabolic syndrome in psoriasis patients.
Because this was an observational study, it does not prove cause and effect, Mehta noted. But it is strong evidence that psoriasis patients with metabolic syndrome have high levels of plaque.
The findings were published online Dec. 28 in the Journal of the American Association of Dermatology.