A recent study found that US veterans with PTSD have more than double the risk of death and a greater risk of heart disease than veterans without a PTSD diagnosis. The study was presented in part by a researcher from the Greater Los Angeles VAMC at a meeting of the American Heart Association. This study is important as it is the first one to make a direct association between PTSD and atherosclerosis – which is when fatty material collects on the artery walls, forms calcium deposits, and eventually blocks the flow of blood through the arteries.
The researchers studied the medical records of more than 286,000 veterans for almost a decade. After adjusting for age, gender, and cardiovascular risk factors, they found that veterans diagnosed with PTSD had a rate of death from all causes twice that of veterans who were not diagnosed with PTSD. Additionally, the study found that three-quarters of the veterans diagnosed with PTSD had more severe atherosclerosis than veterans not diagnosed with PTSD. The researchers hope that the study’s findings will encourage early detection and management of cardiovascular risk factors in veterans diagnosed with PTSD in an effort to delay the onset of cardiovascular disease.