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Veterans With PTSD May Be at Higher Risk for Heart Disease
Date:11/17/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, appear to be at higher risk for heart disease.

For the first time, researchers have linked PTSD with severe atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), as measured by levels of calcium deposits in the arteries.

The condition "is emerging as a significant risk factor," said Dr. Ramin Ebrahimi, co-principal investigator of a study on the issue presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago.

The authors are hoping that these and other, similar findings will prompt doctors, particularly primary care physicians, to more carefully screen patients for PTSD and, if needed, follow up aggressively with screening and treatment.

Post-traumatic stress disorder -- triggered by experiencing an event that causes intense fear, helplessness or horror -- can include flashbacks, emotional numbing, overwhelming guilt and shame, being easily startled, and difficulty maintaining close relationships.

"When you go to a doctor, they ask questions about diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol," said Ebrahimi, who is a research scientist at the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Administration Center. "The goal would be for PTSD to become part of routine screening [for heart disease risk factors]."

Although PTSD is commonly associated with war veterans, it's now also widely linked to people who have survived traumatic events, such as rape, a severe accident or an earthquake, flood or other natural disaster.

The authors reviewed electronic medical records of 286,194 veterans, most of them male with an average age 63, who had been seen at Veterans Administration medical centers in southern California and Nevada. Some of the veterans had last been on active duty as far back as the Korean War.

Researchers also had access to corona
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