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Ptsd May Raise Heart Attack Risk


Jim MAC

Question

Don't know if you seen this or not but I figured I would pass it along.

V/R

Jim

CHICAGO - A groundbreaking study of 1,946 male veterans of World War II and Korea suggests that vets with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are at greater risk of heart attacks as they age.

The new study is the first to document a link between PTSD symptoms and future heart disease, and joins existing evidence that vets with PTSD also have more autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and psoriasis.

A second study, funded by the Army, found that Soldiers returning from combat in Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder reported worse physical health, more doctor visits and more missed workdays. The Army study is based on a survey of 2,863 Soldiers one year after combat.

"The burden of war may be even greater than people think," said the first study's lead author, Laura Kubzansky of the Harvard School of Public Health, who studies anxiety, depression and anger as risk factors for heart disease. Her work, with colleagues from Harvard and Boston University, appears in Monday's Archives of General Psychiatry.

Their study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Army study appears in Monday's American Journal of Psychiatry.

The possible link with heart disease didn't surprise one Iraq veteran diagnosed with PTSD.

"It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out," said John Oliveira of New Bedford, Mass., a former Navy public affairs officer and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. "It should also be a wake-up call that the cost to treat those of us suffering from PTSD could dramatically increase as we age."

Medical authorities first accepted post-traumatic stress disorder as a psychiatric condition in 1980 at the urging of Vietnam veterans.

In PTSD, the body's normal hormonal response to stress becomes trigger-happy, scientists believe. Long after traumatic events, people remain edgy, fearful and prone to nightmares and flashbacks. The continual release of adrenaline prompted by these symptoms may wear down the cardiovascular system, Kubzansky said.

"It's not enough to simply welcome them home and do some immediate evaluation or help with reintegration," she said. "They need to be tracked and watched carefully."

The Harvard and Boston University researchers analyzed data from the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study, a long-term research project tracking Boston-area vets.

They looked at health records of men who completed either a 46-item questionnaire measuring PTSD symptoms in 1986, or a different 35-item PTSD assessment in 1990. Both questionnaires are recognized tools for diagnosing PTSD and ask about symptoms such as sleep problems, nightmares, numbness, a heightened sense of being on guard and intrusive memories of traumatic events.

Over the 10 to 15 years after completing the questionnaires, the vets with more PTSD symptoms were more likely to have heart attacks. For each level increase in symptoms on the 1990 assessment, the risk of heart attack or chest pain rose 18 percent - even after the researchers took into account known heart disease risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use and high blood pressure.

Although the men had different levels of PTSD symptoms, very few had enough symptoms for a true diagnosis, Kubzansky said. The study needs to be repeated to see if the findings hold true for PTSD-diagnosed veterans, and for women, she said.

The data also didn't track how frequently the men exercised, so researchers couldn't tell if the men with PTSD symptoms were getting more or less exercise than other veterans.

Dr. Gary J. Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center, called the study "impressive." He said one symptom of PTSD is avoiding activity, which could account for some of the effect on the heart.

Kennedy, who was not involved in the study, said treatment options for PTSD include drugs, talk therapy and behavioral changes such as getting more exercise and taking action to solve small problems in life rather than shutting down emotionally.

"We've got a whole generation of veterans coming back (from Iraq and Afghanistan) and their health needs are just going to be tremendous," Kennedy said.

Sound Off...What do you think? Join the discussion.

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Had angioplasty Sep 13, 2006 with 90% blockage in artery. VA did not find it my Medicare HMO Doc did.

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  • HadIt.com Elder

My grandfather served in the 30th Infantry Division during WWII and was in the vicinity of Malmedy and was captured by the 6th SS Panzer Division at Stoumont, Belgium, on Dec. 19, 1944. Five days later, he was liberated by his unit in La Gleize, Belgium(on Christmas Eve). After the Battle of the Bulge, he spent a coupkle of weeks in a hospital in England "recovering from wounds received in Belgium" as the newspaper clipping from earl 1945 states. However, he said he was never shot, just took a hell of a knock on the head from a rifle but.

He never talked about his experience. The only thing anybody could ever get out of him was "I'm just Damned lucky to be alive!" and that it was "just plain cold, wet, and miserable!" After the war he served in the Army until 1947. My mother always told me that they were continiously on the move when she was a kid. I think she said they moved a total of about 30 times until she entered high school, then settled down a bit. My Grandfather wasn't a angry man, hardily ever drank and did have a few friends, but did keep to himself and was pretty quiet at social functions.

He was 6'1" and weighted 180lbs and was a hard working man. He had his first heart attach in 1981 (he was born in 1925), which supposedly destroyed 40% of his heart muscles. He made pretty much a full recovery and led a pretty normal life until he had a secord heart attack on Dec 27, 1991 and died.

I'm pretty sure he had PTSD, maybe not full blown at 70% or 100%, but it was there. Heart disease doesn't "run" in his side of the family and wasn't over weight by any means. It sure makes one wonder!

Vike 17

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My husband is sc major depression and suffered his heart attack at the age of 39. (a little over 9 yrs ago)

When he had the heart attack, the dr. wrote in his records "there was no reason for such severe coronary artery disease". He has been seeing the same cardiologist all this time and we just noticed in his records that this dr. did write his "disease could be linked to his depression". He has not filed for secondary yet because he has an app. next week with his VA dr. and he wants to ask her what she thinks. Would this be enough to file for cad secondary to depression?

Thanks,

sbrewer

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