News | January 01, 2007

Traumatic Stress Sets Stage for Heart Disease

Reuters reports that a study of military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder showed that more severe their anxiety, the greater their risk of heart disease. Adding to the long-recognized connection between stress and heart disease, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston said that relationship existed among nearly 2,000 Boston-area veterans.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, once dismissed as "combat fatigue," can also afflict people who experience traumatic events. It is characterized by anxiety, re-experiences of the event and avoidance of stimuli related to the experience, the Reuters article explained.

The study demonstrated that each step up in symptom severity increased the risk of a heart attack by 26 percent, the report said.

"This pattern of effects suggests that individuals with higher levels of (post-traumatic stress disorder) 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 coronary heart disease," wrote study author Laura Kubzansky in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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