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PTSD Symptoms Common After Heart Attack: Study
Date:6/21/2012

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- One in eight heart attack survivors experiences signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, the same condition that disables many combat veterans and assault victims, according to a new analysis.

And development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms doubles heart patients' risk of a second heart attack or death within three years, researchers found.

"You find almost exactly a doubling of risk for recurrent heart attack or death from heart attack if they have PTSD at one month [after the original heart attack]," said Donald Edmondson, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

Common characteristics of PTSD include nightmares, avoidance behaviors, elevated blood pressure and rapid heart rate.

The study indicates that PTSD, an anxiety disorder brought on by trauma, "can occur from any life-threatening event," Edmondson said.

"PTSD has become known as a combat disorder, which is a fundamental misunderstanding of PTSD," he said.

For the study, Edmondson pooled the results of 24 published studies involving almost 2,400 heart patients. Overall, 12 percent of the patients displayed significant PTSD symptoms, and about 4 percent met the criteria for a full diagnosis of PTSD.

In addition, three studies that followed more than 600 patients with PTSD after a heart attack showed these patients had twice the risk of recurrent heart attacks or death.

The analysis is published online June 20 in the journal PLoS ONE.

In the studies, patients were asked about PTSD symptoms at least one month and up to 10 years after their heart attack. On average, patients were interviewed less than two years after.

Symptoms must last more than one month after the event before a formal PTSD diagnosis can be made, experts concur.

Dr. Marcia Slatter
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