Heart Beat: February 2015
Psoriasis linked to higher risk of uncontrolled blood pressure
You may think of psoriasis as primarily a skin condition, because the most obvious sign of the disease is a rash. Doctors have long known that psoriasis is a systemic disease that can affect the body’s endocrine, immune, and cardiovascular systems. Recently, a study published in JAMA Dermatology underscored the broader nature of psoriasis with findings that link the disease with a higher risk of uncontrolled blood pressure. The British study of more than 13,000 adults found that individuals with severe psoriasis were 48 percent more likely to have poorly controlled blood pressure, compared with people who don’t have psoriasis. The exact nature of the relationship between psoriasis and hypertension isn’t yet known, but researchers believe it has to do with chronic inflammation. Psoriasis is the result of the body’s immune system attacking healthy skin cells, which results in chronic inflammation. Inflammation of the blood vessels is also thought to contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease. If you have psoriasis, you should talk with your doctor about how it might affect your blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health. Aggressively treating your psoriasis may help bring down inflammation levels in the body, which may also help bring your blood pressure under control.
Persistent asthma may raise risk of cardiovascular disease
A nine-year study of more than 6,000 people found that individuals with persistent asthma had a 60 percent higher risk of cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack and stroke, compared with those without asthma. Researchers, who presented their findings at the most recent American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, suggested that the connection between asthma and cardiovascular disease (CVD) may be related to the inflammatory processes in asthma and CVD. Researchers found higher-than-normal levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation, in the patients with asthma. The study did not indicate whether asthma, which is the result of inflammation in the bronchioles of the lungs, also contributes to increased inflammation in the blood vessels. However, the researchers did urge individuals with asthma to realize their increased risk for CVD and discuss risk modification with their physicians. Though the mechanism by which asthma may affect CVD isn’t clear, it would still behoove anyone with asthma to pay close attention to risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, and obesity.
Quit smoking to lower odds of abdominal aortic aneurysm growth
Smoking cessation and better control of your diastolic blood pressure may help reduce the risk of expansion of small abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs), according to a study published in JAMA Surgery. AAAs are bulges in the lower part of the aorta, the body’s largest blood vessel. If an aneurysm bursts, it can be a life-threatening event. Even the rupture of a small aneurysm can be fatal. When an aneurysm is first discovered, unless the risk of rupture seems imminent, the course of action is usually to monitor the aneurysm and watch out for expansion. In this study, researchers found that smoking and an elevated diastolic blood pressure were associated with expansion. Diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number of your blood pressure reading. Researchers suggest that blood pressure control and smoking cessation should be top priorities for anyone diagnosed with an AAA.
Containers lined with bisphenol A may increase blood pressure
Health concerns associated with the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) have been around for some time. But a recent study suggests that the chemical, which is used in an epoxy that lines cans and plastic bottles and containers, may also raise blood pressure. The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, suggests that the blood pressure increase could be as much as 5 mm Hg by drinking out of two cans or plastic bottles lined with BPA in one day. Consumers are urged to consume beverages from glass bottles, and not heat foods in plastic containers containing BPA, as the heating process can acclerate the leaching of the chemical into the food or liquid in the container. You should also look for “BPA-free” labels, which are becoming more common.