PTSD May Put the Heart in Peril

Veterans with PTSD may face increased heart attack, stroke risk

(RxWiki News) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may reduce the ability of blood vessels to fully dilate, which may raise heart attack and stroke risk, a new study found.

In a test of how well an artery in the arm relaxes and expands (reacts) in response to the squeezing of a blood pressure cuff, researchers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco found that the blood vessels of veterans with PTSD were less reactive than the vessels of veterans without PTSD.

Less reactive blood vessels may restrict blood flow, making veterans with PTSD more susceptible to heart attacks or strokes, particularly if they have other risk factors like high cholesterol, hypertension or diabetes, these researchers said.

Researchers compared the blood vessel reactivity of 67 veterans (average age 68, 99 percent male) with PTSD and 147 veterans (average age 69, 91 percent male) without PTSD. Blood vessels of vets with PTSD expanded 5.8 percent, compared to 7.5 percent among the veterans without PTSD — suggesting a less-healthy response in the lining of their blood vessels.

These findings, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, may highlight a need to screen for cardiovascular risk factors when patients have PTSD, these researchers said.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Department of Defense, American Heart Association, University of California San Francisco, Northern California Institute for Research and Education, Society for Vascular Surgery, Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and Irene Perlstein Foundation funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.