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PTSD and Heart Disease Risk


Updated January 31, 2012

In addition to other mental health problems, a connection has also been found between PTSD and heart disease risk.

PTSD has been connected to the development of many mental health problems, including other anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. However, PTSD can also have a negative impact on a person's physical health.

PTSD and Heart Disease

Dr. Joseph Boscarino from the Center for Health Research at the Geisinger Clinic conducted a study to look at whether there is a relationship between PTSD, heart disease, and premature death from heart disease. To do so, he looked at a group of 4,328 men with and without PTSD who were veterans of the Vietnam War.

He found that those veterans with PTSD in 1985 were much more likely to have died due to heart disease in the year 2000, as compared to veterans without a diagnosis of PTSD. All the men surveyed were free of heart disease in 1985 and less than 65 years old in 2000. This means that those with PTSD who died experienced a premature death due to the development of heart disease.

How Are PTSD and Heart Disease Linked?

Chronic PTSD results in the release of stress hormones which may contribute to inflammation and eventual damage to a person's cardiovascular system. This would increase a person's risk for heart disease and premature death.

People with PTSD also appear to be at high risk for obesity and unhealthy behaviors (for example, smoking) which may further increase the possibility of heart disease and premature death.

Preventing Heart Disease

Fortunately, heart disease (and premature death from heart disease) is preventable. First, if you have PTSD, it is important to seek out psychological treatment to manage your stress.

There are a number of treatment options for someone with PTSD. You can find out more information about treatment providers in your area who might offer some of these treatments through UCompare HealthCare from About.com, as well as the Anxiety Disorder Association of America.

As part of your treatment for PTSD, it may also be important to establish a healthier lifestyle. A healthy diet, exercise, and eliminating bad habits (for example, stopping smoking) may not only improve your health, but also your mood. Behavioral activation is one technique that provides an easy way to increase the level of activity in your life, help you meet your goals, and can reduce PTSD symptoms.

Finally, you can learn more about heart disease from Dr. Richard N. Fogoros, About.com Guide to Heart Disease.



Boscarino, J.A. (2008). A prospective study of PTSD and early-age heart disease mortality among Vietnam Veterans: Implications for surveillance and prevention. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70, 668-676.

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