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Taking Care

Be vigilant about these health conditions associated with psoriasis

When you live with psoriasis, it's critical to be vigilant about conditions that can lead to heart disease, said Dr. Nehal N. Mehta, head of the Section of Inflammation and Cardiometabolic Disease at the National Institutes of Health. It is also important to monitor your weight and diet to reduce the risk of diabetes.

Talk with your dermatologist or primary care doctor about the following conditions and diagnostic tests.


High Blood Pressure

What it is: Blood pressure measures the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps. The top number is systolic pressure, your blood pressure when your heart beats; the bottom number is diastolic pressure, the pressure when your heart is at rest between beats.

Why it's important: High blood pressure can damage the walls of blood vessels, leading to heart attack and stroke. What test you need: Blood pressure testing.

What is normal: For most adults, a systolic pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80 is the goal.

When you should be tested: Starting at age 18, have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years. After 35, have your blood pressure checked at least yearly, especially if you have psoriasis. If your pressure is high, have it checked more often and work with your doctor to lower it.

Where to get tested: Your primary health care provider.


High Cholesterol

What it is: Cholesterol is a lipid (fat) produced by your liver that is vital for your body to function. There are three main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), highdensity lipoprotein (HDL) and triglycerides. HDL is the good cholesterol, LDL is the bad.

Why it's important: High cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in your arteries, causing a blockage that leads to heart attack or stroke.

What test you need: A fasting cholesterol profile will tell you your numbers.

What is normal: Your total cholesterol after not eating for nine to 12 hours should be less than 200 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL) of blood. LDL should be less than 100 mg/dL, but this depends on whether you have risk factors for heart disease. HDL should be at least 40 mg/dL for men and 50mg/dL for women. Triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dL.

When you should be tested: People older than 20 should be tested at least once every five years. If you have psoriasis and if there is a family history of heart disease, get checked annually.

Where to get tested: Talk to your family doctor about having a fasting lipid panel.


Type 2 Diabetes

What it is: Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition in which your body fails to properly convert glucose (sugar) in the food you eat to energy. You may not make enough insulin to unlock your cells and let glucose in, or your insulin may not be working effectively.

Why it's important: Excess glucose can damage vessels and lead to complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, nerve damage and blindness. Uncontrolled diabetes can increase the risk of infections and can lead to amputation.

What test you need: A blood test called hemoglobin A1C will measure your average blood sugar levels for the last two to three months. It measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. Your doctor also may require a blood sugar test with samples taken at random times, or a fasting blood sugar test.

What is normal: A hemoglobin A1C of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests suggests you could have diabetes. A normal fasting blood sugar should be between 70 and 100 mg/dL; if it is over 126 mg/dL, your doctor will likely diagnose diabetes.

When you should be tested: Get tested if you have symptoms, a body mass index of higher than 29, or a history of heart disease or a close relative with type 2 diabetes. If you have no symptoms, screening should begin at age 45.

Where to be tested: Your primary care doctor can order tests for diabetes and treat it, but you also may need to see an endocrinologist, who specializes in treating diabetes and other endocrine system diseases.


Obesity

What it is: A person is considered obese when body weight is 20 percent more than normal for age and height.

Why it's important: Being overweight increases your risk for developing lifelong medical conditions, including arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.

What test you need: Go to www.calculator.net and click on weight loss calculators. Select the BMI Calculator.

What is normal: Normal is generally considered a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9, overweight is 26 to 29.9 and obese is 30 or more.

When you should be tested: Weigh yourself regularly. It's easier to lose weight before you've gained too many pounds.

Where to get tested: At home or in the doctor's office.

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