Does rosacea increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke?
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There’s still no straightforward answer to this question. Findings from a few studies suggest the answer is yes. Other studies have not found that rosacea increases the risk.
These conflicting findings don’t mean that the studies lack value. People are complex, and many things can contribute to a person’s risk of developing heart disease, including lifestyle, age, and family history of heart disease. It takes time for scientists to sort out all of these risks.
The good news is that scientists continue to run studies to find out whether rosacea can increase the risk of developing heart disease. So far, this is what they’ve learned about the link between rosacea and heart disease.
People with rosacea may have more risk factors for heart disease
A risk factor is anything that increases your risk of getting a disease. Risk factors for having a stroke or heart attack include getting little exercise, smoking, and being overweight.
A few studies have found that people with rosacea seem to have more risk factors for heart disease than people who do not have rosacea.
One of these studies was a large study conducted in Taiwan. During this study, researchers looked at 15 years’ worth of medical records. After reviewing more than 200,000 medical records, they found that the people with rosacea were more likely than the people without rosacea to have unhealthy cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Both are known risk factors for heart disease.
In another study, scientists recruited 60 people with rosacea and 50 people who did not have rosacea. The scientists found that the people who had rosacea also had more risk factors for heart disease than the people without rosacea.
In that study, blood tests revealed that the people with rosacea had higher levels of cholesterol and C-reactive protein (a marker for heart disease). The people with rosacea also had more family members with heart disease, and they smoked more than the patients without rosacea.
Because these can increase the risk of developing heart disease, the scientists concluded that people with rosacea may have a higher risk of developing heart disease.
Another study found that the patients with rosacea were more likely to have high blood pressure than patients who did not have rosacea. If a patient had more extensive rosacea, the patient was also more likely to have unhealthy cholesterol levels and diabetes. All of these can increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease.
More risk factors may not lead to more heart disease
In general, the more risk factors a person has for a disease, the greater the person’s risk of developing that disease. So the next logical question for scientists to ask was, “Do people with rosacea have more heart disease than people who don’t have rosacea?” Here’s what the scientists discovered.
During one study, scientists looked at medical insurance claim forms. They wanted to find out whether patients with rosacea were more likely to develop heart disease within a year of being diagnosed with rosacea.
They discovered that the patients with rosacea were not more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease within a year of being diagnosed with rosacea.
Another study followed patients with (and without) rosacea for up to 15 years. During this time, the patients with rosacea were not more likely to die of heart disease.
While these findings are encouraging, scientists need to run more studies to know for certain whether rosacea increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Takeaway for people with rosacea
Heart disease has many risk factors. While scientists are trying to find out whether rosacea is one of these risk factors, it’s important to keep in mind that many people who do not have rosacea develop heart disease.
You can find out if you have a higher risk by making an appointment to see your primary care doctor. During a checkup, your doctor can take your blood pressure. Blood tests can tell whether you have healthy cholesterol and sugar levels. You may also be screened for other risk factors.
If your checkup reveals that you have any risk factors for heart disease, making some lifestyle changes can reduce your risk. Medication can also help lower your risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
We know doing these things can help — even if rosacea is a risk factor.
Image: Getty Images
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Marshall VD, Moustafa F, et al. “Cardiovascular disease outcomes associated with three major inflammatory dermatologic diseases: A propensity-matched case control study.” Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2016; 6(4): 649-58.
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