One very significant finding was that "for the deployers reporting combat exposure, only a certain type of combat exposure -- personally witnessing or being exposed to a person's death because of war or disaster -- was statistically significantly associated with newly reported hypertension," said Simon A. Rego, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
"Thus, it appears that deployment and even combat exposure in general do not increase the risk of hypertension," Rego said. "Rather, it is being deployed and then experiencing or witnessing multiple stressful combat exposures involving a person's death."
Among the factors associated with high blood pressure were obesity, which tripled the risk; ethnicity, with blacks 84 percent more likely to report high blood pressure than whites, and general health. Those reporting poorer general health were 68 percent more likely to say they had high blood pressure.
"The finding will likely increase in significance in terms of the potential health consequences related to the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, in particular as the wars continue on and soldiers face multiple deployments and an increased risk of stressful combat exposures," Rego said.
Common risk factors for high blood pressure are listed by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
SOURCES: Kirk Garratt, M.D., director, interventional cardiovascular research, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Simon A. Rego, PsyD, ACT, assistant professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City; Sept. 14, 2009, Hypertension
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