Study Links PTSD, Heart Disease in Vietnam Veterans

  • Michael Briggs , Design & Trend Staff Writer
  • Jun, 26, 2013, 03:41 PM

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington. (Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington. (Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)


A new study published Wednesday by Emory University scientists claims there is a link between post-traumatic stress disorder and heart disease in veterans.

"This study provides further evidence that PTSD may affect physical health," said Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., director of the NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which partially funded the study. "Future research to clarify the mechanisms underlying the link between PTSD and heart disease in Vietnam veterans and other groups will help to guide the development of effective prevention and treatment strategies for people with these serious conditions." 

The Emory researchers searched for male twins from the Vietnam War, one who suffered from PTSD and one who did not. What they discovered was that the veteran who had PTSD was twice as likely to have developed heart disease during the 13 year study than their twin who never had PTSD.

About 23 percent of the PTSD sufferers had a heart attack, hospitalization for a blocked artery, or signs of heart disease on imaging tests, while just 9 percent of the twins who never had PTSD experienced these results.

"Our results were similar whether we were comparing fraternal or identical twins, which suggests that genetic factors don't really play much of a role in this connection," said study author Dr. Viola Vaccarino, an epidemiologist and internist at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health.

The study did not include women, so researchers were unable to say if female veterans with PTSD could experience similar heart disease issues. The prevalence of heart disease was still strong after the researchers accounted for smoking, physical activity level and drinking, along with major depression and other psychiatric diseases.

About 7.7 million Americans suffer from PTSD.

The study's findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.


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