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PTSD May Up Heart Disease Risk

The link between stress and heart disease has been hypothesized for years. However, the relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder and increased risk of coronary heart disease has not been vigorously studied. New research discovers advanced symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder may increase the risk of coronary heart disease in older men.

The report is found in the January issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, a JAMA journal.

Numerous studies have found that cardiovascular disease and its risk factors are more common among individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to background information in the article. But to the authors’ knowledge, no prospective studies to date have examined PTSD in relation to CHD risk.

Laura D. Kubzansky, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues conducted a prospective study to test the hypothesis that high levels of PTSD symptoms may increase CHD risk, using two different measures of PTSD (the Mississippi Scale for Combat-Related PTSD and the Keane PTSD scale).

The authors analyzed data on 1,946 men enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. All the study subjects were community-dwelling men from the Greater Boston area who served in the military. The authors looked for incident (new cases) of coronary heart disease occurring during follow-up through May 2001.

Using the Mississippi Scale for Combat-Related PTSD, the authors found that for each increase in symptom level, the men had a 26 percent increased risk for non-fatal heart attack and fatal CHD combined. They had a 21 percent increased risk for all CHD outcomes combined (non-fatal heart attack, fatal CHD, and angina). The findings were replicated using the Keane PTSD scale.

“This pattern of effects suggests that individuals with higher levels of PTSD symptoms are not simply prone to reporting higher levels of chest pain or other physical symptoms but may well be at higher risk for developing CHD,” the authors write.

“These data suggest that prolonged stress and significant levels of PTSD symptoms may increase the risk for CHD in older male veterans,” they conclude. “These results are provocative and suggest that exposure to trauma and prolonged stress not only may increase the risk for serious mental health problems but are also cardiotoxic.”

Source: Archives of General Psychiatry

PTSD May Up Heart Disease Risk

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). PTSD May Up Heart Disease Risk. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 18, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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