PTSD linked to heart disease
Evidence continues to support the belief health experts have had that chronic stress or anxiety, including PTSD, can cause damage to the heart over time. A team from the Pacific Islands Division of the National Center for PTSD of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has found that in veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder makes a person nearly 50 percent more likely to develop heart disease.
For the study, the team followed 8.248 veterans for an average of seven years, all of whom were outpatients of the VA Pacific Islands System in the Hawaiian Islands. Those who were diagnosed with PTSD -- 21 percent of patients -- had a 47 percent greater chance of developing heart disease than other patients within a follow-up period. During the study, there were 371 reports of heart disease, with 287 of them occurring in patients with PTSD and only 87 without.
The team was unable to obtain patient data on location of military service, or ethnicity, which may have been additional risk factors for the chance of developing heart disease. However, the scientists say that this is the first large scale and long-term study of the relationship between heart disease and PTSD in veterans, and found that combat service is a strong predictor in the chances of developing heart failure with or without a PTSD diagnosis
Currently, the data points to only a causal relationship between heart health and stress disorders. This study did not present a clear cause and effect relationship and scientists are still working to figure how how chronic stress and anxiety disorders like PTSD are linked to heart disease. The results, published in the American Journal of Public Health, suggest a greater incentive for veterans to manage or treat mental health conditions. Scientists add that these results may also help us reduce overall cases of heart disease in the future. Over 5 million Americans are affected by heart disease, with over 500,000 new cases each year.