The Connection Between Psoriatic Arthritis, Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance
Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects mostly people with the skin disorder psoriasis; it causes symptoms like joint pain, stiffness and swelling. But the effects of this condition spread beyond just your joints—it can affect other parts of your body, too, and put you at higher risk for serious health issues. Significant research has shown that people with psoriatic arthritis have a much higher chance of developing insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, two conditions that can have severe consequences if not treated appropriately.
Insulin resistance is a condition that can trigger type 2 diabetes. Ordinarily, your body produces as much insulin as you need and you use as much insulin as your body produces. In some cases, while your pancreas produces enough insulin for your needs, your body can’t respond to it or the cells in your body become resistant to it. As a result, your blood glucose levels remain high, which can lead to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome is a term for a collection of medical problems conditions that tend to co-exist. They’re grouped together because they’re all risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. Millions of people in the U.S. have one or two of these conditions, but to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you must have at least three of these five conditions:
High blood pressure
High blood glucose (sugar), which could be a result of prediabetes or insulin resistance
Abnormal cholesterol levels in your blood
Abnormal triglyceride levels in your blood
Excess fat found around your waist
It’s easy to see the connection between insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, but where does psoriatic arthritis fit in? All of them are considered inflammatory conditions, but unfortunately, researchers don’t yet completely understand the relationship between the three. Experts do know that up to 58% of people with psoriatic arthritis also have metabolic syndrome. Many more have just one or two conditions related to metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance alone. In one study, researchers found that 74% of patients with psoriatic arthritis had high blood pressure, 56% had excess fat around the waist, and 43.5% had elevated triglyceride levels.
People with psoriatic arthritis may also have higher levels of inflammatory cardiovascular markers (enzymes, hormones and proteins). Cardiovascular markers help measure your heart function; the more cardiovascular markers a person has, the higher the risk of heart disease or heart attack. This, combined with metabolic syndrome, also has an effect on heart attack or heart disease risk.
Although researchers are still trying to determine why people with psoriatic arthritis are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance, it’s important that patients stay vigilant about lowering this risk. Some risk factors for metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance can be avoided or prevented. These risk factors include:
Being overweight or obese
Being physically inactive
Taking certain types of medications
Having a history or family history of diabetes
Having Mexican-American ancestry
While there’s nothing you can do about your family history, there are things you can change. If you’re overweight or obese, start by adapting your diet to one recommended by the ChooseMyPlate initiative from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The initiative recommends that half of your plate contain fruit and vegetables and the other half grains, proteins, and small amounts of dairy. If you need to lose weight, speak with a healthcare professional to learn the best approach for you. Other lifestyle changes include increasing your exercise level, stopping smoking, and trying to improve your sleep habits.
Sometimes, lifestyle changes aren’t enough to reduce the risk. If necessary, your rheumatologist may refer you to a cardiologist or prescribe medications to help regulate your blood pressure and blood glucose levels. Follow your treatment plan and go for regular check-ups to stay as healthy as possible.
Living with a chronic condition means you must take extra care of your body. By being aware of the risks associated with psoriatic arthritis, you have the power to make positive changes and stay in good health.