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Trauma link to heart disease risk

31st May 2011

People who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have a higher heart disease risk than those who do not, according to a recent US study.

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The researchers spotted accretions of plaque in the coronary arteries of US war veterans diagnosed with PTSD.

In veterans who had the most trouble dealing with the trauma of the war they had witnessed, there was an even higher likelihood of heart disease.

Joseph Boscarino, an investigator at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania, said that studies kept showing a link between PTSD and various forms of cardiovascular disease.

He said he felt something needed to be done, and that better ways of intervening needed to be developed.

Lead reasearcher Ramin Ebrahimi, of the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Administration Medical Centre, said that for a long time PTSD was basically known as a psychological or psychiatric disorder.

He said that it took researchers time to notice that PTSD sufferers also had a number of other medical problems.

For the study, the researchers screened a group of 637 veterans who already had a high likelihood of heart disease.

The researchers then screened those veterans for signs of PTSD and coronary artery disease.

On average, all of the veterans were about 60 years old.

The 88 veterans with PTSD had more narrowed arteries than those without PTSD.

The researchers also followed participants for an average of three and half years, and found that 17% of the study participants with PTSD died during that period.

People who had the same degree of coronary artery disease, but did not have PTSD, also died less frequently.

Boscarino said he believed that, by treating people with PTSD in the early stages of the disorder, doctors would be able to prevent not only the psychological problems associated with PTSD, but the medical problems as well.

While exceptionally high numbers of troops involved in the world's recent conflicts are plagued by combat flashbacks, depression, and fearful and avoidant behaviour, soldiers are not the only ones who are forced to deal with PTSD.

Ebrahimi emphasized that, in addition to affecting soldiers, PTSD also affected people who had been raped, otherwise attacked or who had survived natural disasters.

 


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