A new study by the American Heart Association reveals that women who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are up to 60% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
The findings, published in the journal Circulation, are based on an analysis of almost 50,000 young and middle-aged women. Over the course of 20 years, researchers analyzed their exposure to trauma and observed their symptoms of PTSD in relation to the occurrence of cardiovascular disease.
Using a questionnaire to assess different symptoms and experiences of trauma, researchers found that the rate of heart disease was 60% higher for women who had at least four symptoms of PTSD, compared to women who had not experienced a traumatic event. Even for women who had a traumatic experience but no symptoms of PTSD, cardiovascular rates were still 45% higher. Furthermore, the inclusion of unhealthy habits like smoking and lack of exercise, as well as medical conditions like high blood pressure, accounted for nearly half of the connections between higher PTSD symptoms and incidents of heart disease.
Although PTSD is a condition that has traditionally been associated with men, more women are falling victim to it. Among women, PTSD is often triggered by a natural disaster, physical assault, or unsolicited sexual contact. Symptoms may include insomnia and fatigue, issues with memory, difficulty concentrating, numbed emotions, and undesirable flashbacks.
While these findings may not come as a surprise, the study’s authors are hoping that they’ll change the way medical practitioners handle PTSD cases, which have traditionally fallen under the realm of mental health care. Instead, PTSD patients need access to both mental and physical health care, as both are clearly intertwined.
Source for Today’s article:
MacGill, M., “PTSD ‘raises women’s risks of heart attack and stroke,’” Medical News Today web site, June 30, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/295970.php.