Imagine if you could find out whether or not you will suffer serious cardiovascular issues in your future, just by looking at your skin! Confused? Well, new research in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that out of more than 61,000 adults surveyed, those with the inflammatory skin condition eczema were 48% more likely to deal with high blood pressure, 35% more likely to have adult-onset diabetes, and 29% more likely to have high cholesterol (all risk factors for heart disease) than other adults, even after controlling for factors like exercise and drinking habits.
You must be wondering if there is a relationship between your skin and the state of your heart. The likely answer is that people with eczema are dealing with such intense, chronic inflammation that its effects are showing up throughout the body, not just on the skin.
When invaders attack your body, your body’s natural immune response against them is acute inflammation. But this constant deployment of natural killer cells and T cells can actually get in the way of vital functions like digestion and circulation. “It may be that chronic inflammation from eczema directly increases cardiovascular risk," says Jonathan Silverberg, MD, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology and preventative medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
This doesn’t mean that everyone with eczema is going to get cardiovascular disease. However, having the skin disorder should be treated as a caution that it’s not just a cosmetic problem. Previous studies have found that more severe eczema symptoms are a sign of greater inflammation, and that they also increase your odds of having other inflammatory conditions.
In order to get to the root of the issue by decreasing the inflammation that causes it in the first place, you must get your eczema symptoms under control. Eating plenty of inflammation-fighting foods, like antioxidant-rich produce, keeping stress levels under control, and prioritizing sleep, helps in easing the symptoms.
Also, be sure to ask your doctor about regular heart health screenings—they're still the best way to know whether or not your heart is in good shape.
Read more articles on Understand Eczema.