Psoriasis Raises Risk of Atrial Fibrillation (AF)

March 16, 2010 7:15 AM CT

By Peggy Noonan 

Psoriasis is a risk factor for atrial fibrillation (AF), researchers conclude in a new study just presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 59th annual scientific sessions in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Psoriasis is an immune system disorder and chronic inflammatory disease that can cause red, scaly patches on skin and other symptoms.   

Scientists suspected there might be a connection because both atrial fibrillation and psoriasis are associated with excess inflammation but the results of previous investigations were “ambiguous, debated, and the clinical relevance doubted,” says Ole Ahlehoff, MD, of Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte, lead author of the new study. 

His research examined data collected on 40,262 Danish people in a nationwide register of hospital visits and prescriptions from 1997 through 2006 and found: 

  • Atrial fibrillation risk was 22% higher in people with mild psoriasis and 51% higher in those with moderate-to-severe psoriasis.  
  • Stroke risk was higher by 19% in people with mild psoriasis and 45% in people with moderate-to-severe psoriasis. 
  • People with moderate-to-severe psoriasis who were under age 50 when the study started had 28% higher risk of atrial fibrillation and 92% higher risk of stroke. 
  • Heart attack (myocardial infarction, or MI) was also increased by 10% in people with mild cases and 24% for those with moderate-to-severe psoriasis.

This study confirms that psoriasis is a “clinically significant and independent risk factor” for atrial fibrillation, says Dr. Ahlehoff and calls for “increased awareness of psoriasis as a contributor to cardiovascular disease.”  We need discussions on how to incorporate these findings into medical management options, he suggests.

For example, should people with psoriasis start taking statin drugs earlier than guidelines normally recommend?  “Since psoriasis is a common disease, affecting two to three percent of people world-wide,” he says “reducing cardiovascular risk in this large group of patients could have considerable impact.”

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Peggy Noonan specializes in writing about health for consumers and medical professionals. She writes for leading national magazines and consumer publications as well as