Vietnam vets with PTSD have higher risk of heart disease

June 25, 2013 at 4:53 PM
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ATLANTA, June 25 (UPI) -- Twin Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder were more than twice as likely to develop heart disease than those with no PTSD, researchers say.

Researchers from the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, along with colleagues from other institutions, assessed the presence of heart disease in 562 middle-aged twins -- 340 identical and 222 fraternal -- from the Vietnam Era Twin Registry.

The study, published online ahead of the print edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found the incidence of heart disease was 22.6 percent in twins with PTSD and 8.9 percent in those without PTSD.

Heart disease was defined as having a heart attack, having an overnight hospitalization for heart-related symptoms, or having undergone a heart procedure.

In addition, the study found nuclear scans, used to photograph blood flow to the heart, showed that individuals with PTSD had almost twice as many areas of reduced blood flow to the heart as individuals without PTSD.

"This study suggests a link between PTSD and cardiovascular health," lead researcher Dr. Viola Vaccarino of Emory University and chairwoman of the department of epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health said in a statement.

"For example, repeated emotional triggers during everyday life in persons with PTSD could affect the heart by causing frequent increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and heartbeat rhythm abnormalities that in susceptible individuals could lead to a heart attack."

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