PTSD Veterans Face Doubled Risk of Developing Heart Disease

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Veterans who have suffered from  post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) face a doubled risk of developing heart disease compared to other war veterans, according to a recent study. Also, one in four veterans who survive a stroke suffer symptoms of PTSD.

Using computerized imaging techniques, the research provides the first long-term look at the association between PTSD and heart disease.

Dr. Gary H. Gibbons, director of the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which partially funded the study, said:

“This study provides further evidence that PTSD may affect physical health. Future research to clarify the mechanisms underlying the link between PTSD and heart disease in Vietnam veterans and other groups will help to guide the development of effective prevention and treatment strategies for people with these serious conditions.”

What is PTSD?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can cause a person to experience flashbacks, bad dreams and frightening thoughts when they’re not in real danger.

People who suffer from PTSD often may cause them to avoid places and events that remind them of their trauma. Also, victims of PTSD may feel easily startled or on edge and they can sometimes they experience strong feelings of guilt, depression, and worry.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, during any given year, about 5.2 million adults have PTSD. It’s been diagnosed in approximately 11 to 20 percent of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, in as many of 10 percent of Gulf War Veterans about 30 percent of Vietnam Veterans.

Researchers recruited 562 middle-aged sets of twins who were part of a Vietnam era registry and used them for their study. Some genetic and environmental factors can skew the results. Twin studies help to rules these factors out.

The results of the study showed that about 23 percent of twins who had been diagnosed with PTSD had heart disease, compared to nearly 9 percent of twins who didn’t have PTSD.

Heart ailments included heart attacks, hospitalizations for heart-related symptoms, or undergoing a heart procedure.

The hearts of individuals with PTSD, on nuclear imaging scans, showed that those with PTSD had almost twice as much reduction in blood flow to the heart as those without PTSD. Lack of blood flow to the heart could lead to heart attacks, stroke and cardiac arrest.

Nuclear imaging scans of the individuals’ hearts showed that those with PTSD almost had twice as much reduction in blood flow to the heart as those without PTSD. Reduction of blood flow to the heart can lead to heart attacks, strokes and cardiac arrest.

In a second twin study,the researchers looked at a set of 234 twins where one brother had PTSD and the other did not. The incidence of heart disease was almost double in those with PTSD (22 percent) compared to those without (almost 13 percent).

Cause and effect was not proven by the study, but the results of the evidence in the study lend credence to there being a link between PTSD and heart health for military members.

Dr. Viola Vaccarino, chair of the department of epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, said in a press release.

“Repeated emotional triggers during everyday life in persons with PTSD could affect the heart by causing frequent increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and heartbeat rhythm abnormalities that in susceptible individuals could lead to a heart attack.”

To read more of what the study reports, click on: Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Do you know of anyone who has suffered from having PTSD?

Make sure that he or she get the medical help needed. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a very real health condition that can double the risk of veterans developing heart disease and it greatly increases their rates of having strokes.

Written by: Douglas Cobb

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