Post-traumatic stress disorder may result in heart disease

November 08, 1999

Combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appear to be at higher risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), according to a recent study of 4,462 male U.S. Army veterans who served during the Vietnam War. The study results suggest that PTSD and other types of severe psychological distress may actually cause heart disease. While the relationship between severe stress exposures and heart disease has been confirmed in animal studies, this association has been difficult to establish in human studies.

In this study, electrocardiogram (ECG) examinations detected a higher rate of heart disorders, including evidence of past heart attacks, among Vietnam veterans who were suffering from PTSD at the time of the study than among other veteran subjects. The ECGs also showed that veterans who were experiencing depression or anxiety had a significantly higher rate of heart problems as well. The findings held true even after controlling for other factors, such as smoking history, drug abuse, alcohol consumption, income, education, race, and age.

"We found a link between long-term, severe psychological distress and ECG results that serve as clear markers for coronary heart disease," said study head Joseph Boscarino, Ph.D., M.P.H., who was with the Department of Outcomes Research at Catholic Health Initiatives in Louisville, Kentucky, at the time the research was conducted. "For these men, combat exposure years ago in Vietnam was the principal reason for PTSD, anxiety, and depression, but we believe that the results would be similar when looking at the consequences of severe distress among other groups of people and within other occupations."

"We believe that this research suggests a clear, definitive linkage between exposure to severe stress and the onset of coronary heart disease in humans," said Boscarino.

In the research, the 4,462 veterans studied received comprehensive medical and psychiatric examinations and Board-certified cardiologists confirmed all the Veterans' ECG results.

Abnormal ECG results showed up in 28 percent of the veterans with PTSD, 24 percent of the veterans with depression, and 22 percent of the veterans with anxiety. Fifteen percent of all of the veterans studied had abnormal results.

Approximately 30 percent of male veterans are known to have developed PTSD after Vietnam service. The study's medical implications are important in the health care of veterans who continue to suffer from PTSD as they age and will be afflicted both with the consequences of severe stress and aging. The results of the research appear in the current issue of Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Health System in Louisville, Kentucky. Boscarino is now a senior director in the Center for Outcomes Measurement and Performance Assessment with Merck-Medco in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.
Annals of Behavioral Medicine is the official peer-reviewed publication of The Society of Behavioral Medicine. For information about the journal, contact Arthur Stone, Ph.D., 516-632-8833.

Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health For information about the Center, call Petrina Chong, 202-387-2829.

Center for Advancing Health

Related Depression Articles from Brightsurf:

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression
Although researchers have known for decades that depression runs in families, new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, suggests that children suffering from social anxiety may be at particular risk for depression in the future.

Depression and use of marijuana among US adults
This study examined the association of depression with cannabis use among US adults and the trends for this association from 2005 to 2016.

Maternal depression increases odds of depression in offspring, study shows
Depression in mothers during and after pregnancy increased the odds of depression in offspring during adolescence and adulthood by 70%.

Targeting depression: Researchers ID symptom-specific targets for treatment of depression
For the first time, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified two clusters of depressive symptoms that responded to two distinct neuroanatomical treatment targets in patients who underwent transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) for treatment of depression.

A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.

Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.

Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.

CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

Read More: Depression News and Depression Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to