PTSD May Promote Heart Failure

MARCH 26, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor
Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) face greater odds of developing heart failure than comrades without the psychiatric condition.

Researchers relied on outpatient medical records for 8248 veterans in the Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System.

After about 7 years, those experiencing PTSD had a 47% greater likelihood of heart failure, even with adjustments for age, gender, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, body mass index, combat service, and military service period.

Among the 371 veterans who experienced heart failure, 287 had PTSD and 84 did not.

“There are many theories as to how exactly PTSD contributes to heart disease,” said study author and epidemiologist Alyssa Mansfield, PhD, MHA, MPH, in a press release. “Overall, the evidence to date seems to point in the direction of a causal relationship.”

Among other findings published in The American Journal of Public Health, the researchers determined that age, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and combat service are also predictors for heart failure.

“Prevention and treatment efforts for heart failure and its associated risk factors should be expanded among US veterans with PTSD,” the researchers concluded.

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, about 7% to 8% of Americans will experience PTSD in their lifetimes. Of the veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, between 11% and 20% have PTSD in a given year.

Signs of PTSD include flashbacks of the traumatic event, nightmares, feelings of numbness and guilt, and difficulty sleeping. 


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