PTSD Linked to Increased Heart Disease Risk Among Female Veterans

Female veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) incur more risk factors associated with heart disease, such as early obesity, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association 2019 Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia.

“Since PTSD and heart disease can present differently in men and women, we wanted to assess the prevalence of heart disease risk factors in female veterans to better understand any correlation of PTSD to heart disease unique to this population,” said study author Ramin Ebrahimi, MD, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California Los Angeles and a staff cardiologist at the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Administration, in a press release.

Study researchers combed the national Veterans Administration electronic database, which comprised more than 835,000 female veterans (average age of PTSD veteran, 47). Their findings revealed that compared to female veterans without PTSD, those with PTSD were 60% more likely to have high cholesterol, 52% more likely to have high blood pressure, 81% more likely to have type 2 diabetes, 104% more likely to use tobacco, and 85% more likely to be obese.

“Having higher rates of heart disease risk factors could put female veterans with PTSD at increased risk for developing heart disease,” Dr. Ebrahimi said. “Healthcare providers may need to watch these women more closely at a younger age and treat them more aggressively than those without PTSD to decrease their risk of heart disease.”

Further research, the authors noted, is required to validate these findings and to discern if PTSD by itself increases risk of heart disease or if risk of heart disease is higher in patients with PTSD because they have more risk factors.

“Our study will continue and hopefully will answer this question, too,” Dr. Ebrahimi added.