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High Levels of Stress After 9/11 Raised Heart Disease Risk
Date:1/7/2008

Cardiovascular problems surfaced in people with no history of heart trouble,,,,

MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- People with no history of heart problems who felt extremely stressed following the 9/11 terrorist attacks were prone to heart problems in the three years following the attacks, researchers report.

While extreme stress can trigger an immediate lethal heart attack in some people, it can also gradually increase the risk for heart disease over time. And stressful events may remind people of earlier stressful situations, leaving them vulnerable to health problems such as heart disease, the researchers noted.

"The 9/11 attacks represent a formidable form of stress for many people because it's an assault on their country," said lead researcher E. Alison Holman, an assistant professor of nursing science at the University of California, Irvine. "It's the first time in decades that the United States has experienced that form of collective trauma. Probably the last time was after Pearl Harbor."

Holman's team found an increased incidence of cardiovascular ailments during the three years following Sept. 11, 2001. "Those aliments include high blood pressure, heart problems and stroke," she said.

The acute stress reactions were primarily post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and "disassociation," Holman said. But unlike findings in previous research, the new study found that the effect of these problems did not develop immediately after the attack, yet seemed to be enough to put people at risk for heart problems years later.

"People who experienced high levels of acute stress reaction following 9/11 had a much higher incidence of cardiovascular ailments over the three years following 9/11 than people who did not have the high acute stress reaction," Holman said.

For the study, Holman's team collected data on 2,729 adults from across the country, 2,592 of whom had completed an online hea
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