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The Link Between PTSD and Cardiovascular Disease

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The National Institute of Mental Health noted that around 3.5 percent of adults have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder triggered by a traumatic event, such as war, physical assault or sexual assault. The symptoms of PTSD interfere in patients' lives and can make it difficult to function. For example, PTSD patients can re-experience the trauma that caused the PTSD, which includes frightening thoughts, flashbacks and bad dreams. Hyperarousal can occur, such as feeling tense or being easily startled. PTSD patients can have problems with sleep or may become angry when they are hyperaroused. The other group of symptoms of PTSD is avoidance symptoms, in which patients feel emotionally numb, experience depression, stay away from places or things that remind them of the trauma, and have a loss of interest in activities.

Patients with PTSD may develop other health conditions or have a higher risk for a medical condition. For example, PTSD patients may develop alcohol abuse or drug abuse, and have a risk of develop depression or a phobia, which is a type of anxiety disorder in which they strongly fear something, according to MedlinePlus. In a new study presented at a American Heart Association meeting in Chicago, researchers found that veterans with PTSD have a larger risk for cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular diseases take many lives throughout the world: according to the World Health Organization, about 17.1 million people die each year due to cardiovascular disease. Several conditions fall under the category of “cardiovascular disease.” This includes conditions such as heart failure, heart arrhythmias and coronary artery disease, with coronary artery disease possibly leading to a heart attack or angina. Cardiovascular disease is also of high concern to women: the National Women's Health Information Center notes that of those who pass away, one in four women die of heart disease each year.

In the study conducted with veterans with PTSD, the researchers found a connection between the anxiety disorder and atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries, which reduces blood flow. If the plaques rupture, it can cause blood clots, which can lead to a heart attack if the blood clot makes its way to the heart or a stroke if the blood clot makes its way to the brain, according to the American Heart Association. Reuters Health reports that the study included 286,194 veterans, and of that group, the researchers looked at coronary artery calcium levels in 637 veterans; they found that more than 75 percent of veterans with PTSD have worse atherosclerosis compared to veterans without PTSD.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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