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Depression Health Center

PTSD May Raise Risk of Heart Disease

Researchers Link Posttraumatic Stress Disorder to Calcium Buildup in Arteries
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PTSD and Risk of Death

In the study, veterans with PTSD were also more likely to die from any cause than those without the disorder.

During an average follow-up of almost 10 years, 13% of the vets died. Vets with PTSD made up just over 10% of the entire group of veterans, but nearly 10% of those who died.

After taking into account risk factors for heart disease, veterans with PTSD had nearly two and one-half times the risk of death, compared with veterans without PTSD.

Among the veterans with a calcium buildup in their arteries, those with PTSD had a 48% increased risk of death from any cause and a 41% increased risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease, compared with those without the disorder.

Questions Linger About PTSD and Atherosclerosis

Former AHA President Robert Eckel, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, Denver, says the study leaves open a number of questions, most notably how PTSD might be linked to atherosclerosis.

"Is the increase in calcium due to high blood pressure, high glucose, inflammation, insulin resistance?" he asks.

Also, "chart reviews" such as this don't have enough information about patients' diets, smoking status, and exercise habits -- all factors that affect heart disease risks, Eckel tells WebMD.

"I'm not saying PTSD is not real and that it doesn't have health consequences. But much more study is needed," he says.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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