PTSD Raises Risk of Heart Disease
> 8/7/2008 6:19:07 PM

Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) can ruin a sufferer’s mental health with a plague of nightmares and panic responses. Doctors have long suspected that PTSD can also raise the risk of a variety of physical problems, especially cardiovascular disease. With the large number of veterans returning from the Iraq war, it is extremely important that we know more precisely what the health consequences to trauma can be. A study by Dr. Joseph Boscarino in the most recent issue of Psychosomatic Medicine finally presents compelling evidence that PTSD significantly raises cardiovascular danger.
Dr. Boscarino followed a group of 4,300 Vietnam veterans for 15 years. At the beginning of his study, none of the subjects had heart disease. By the end, when most of the subjects were still only in their 50s, many had developed severe cardiovascular problems. Those who had been diagnosed with PTSD were approximately twice as likely to die from heart disease than those who had seen combat but not received such a diagnosis.
Dr. Boscarino posits that the increased risk is likely due to the chronic overproduction of stress hormones, which can cause inflammation damage to a body gripped by PTSD. Confirming this health risk adds another reason for military doctors to accurately diagnose returning soldiers. Failure to catch PTSD, whether through a medical mistake or a deliberate attempt to save government money, can result in premature death in addition to long-term emotional turmoil. Once doctors know that a patient has a PTSD diagnosis, they can take extra care to check for developing cardiovascular problems and encourage healthy habits.

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