People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at twice the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, according to a new study from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.
The researchers followed 562 middle-age twins (340 identical and 222 fraternal). These Vietnam War veterans with PTSD were compared with 425 men without the disorder.
The incidence of heart disease was 22.6 percent in twins with PTSD (177 individuals) and 8.9 percent in those without PTSD (425 individuals) over a 13-year period.
The use of twins allowed researchers to control for the influences of genes and environment on the development of heart disease and PTSD. PTSD is an anxiety disorder in which sufferers relive a traumatic event in memories and nightmares, often avoiding situations that can trigger such memories. Feelings of paranoia can also occur.
The government-supported study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, was the first to use imaging techniques to assess the clinical risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke.
PTSD occurs not only in combat, but also in the aftermath of serious accidents, natural
disasters, and personal violence or abuse.
This often-overlooked risk factor is a serious threat to the heart.
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