PTSD MAY INCREASE HEART RISK IN OLDER MEN
A study of male veterans of World War II and Korea suggests that a higher level of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms may increase risk of incident (new cases) coronary heart disease (CHD) in older men. Conducted by Laura D. Kubzansky, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues, the prospective study is the first to document an association between PTSD symptoms and future heart disease. The study appears in the January issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Using two measures of PTSD, the Mississippi Scale for Combat-Related PTSD (questionnaire taken in 1990 by 1,002 study participants) and the Keane PTSD scale (1986, 944 participants), the researchers analyzed health record data on 1,946 men enrolled in the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study, a long-term research project tracking Boston-area vets. The researchers tracked men who met PTSD diagnosis criteria and PTSD symptoms in men who weren’t diagnosed with PTSD. Most had “low to moderate” levels of PTSD symptoms. Follow up of incident CHD was analyzed through May 2001.
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 and a 21 percent increase when angina was factored in (Mississippi PTSD scale). The findings were replicated with data from the Keane PTSD scale. “These data suggest that prolonged stress and significant levels of PTSD symptoms may increase the risk for CHD in older male veterans,” the authors write. “These results are provocative and suggest that exposure to trauma and prolonged stress not only may increase the risk for serious mental health conditions but are also cardiotoxic.”
The continual release of adrenaline prompted by PTSD symptoms may wear down the cardiovascular system. “The burden of war may be even greater than people think,” said Kubzansky. “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 risk for developing coronary heart disease.” For information on acupuncture for the treatment of PTSD symptoms, contact Dr. Richard Browne at (305) 595-9500.