Heart disease :: Stress & trauma increases heart diseases risk

There is more and more evidence building up that our emotional state of mind can affect our chances of developing heart disease down the road. A new research has revealed that post – traumatic stress disorder often increases the risk of heart disease.

Of course, feelings of anger and hostility can increase the risk of heart disease. People who suffer from post-traumatic stress caused by events like wars or disasters are also at an increased risk.

Led by Dr Joseph Boscarino, the investigation looked at 12 studies involving 50,000 people exposed to urban disasters, war, child abuse and sexual assault. Rates were higher for those who also suffered anxiety and depression.

Boscarino used a study involving 2,490 veterans of the Vietnam war to highlight his findings and found 54 suffered post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while 30 showed signs of having experienced a heart attack.

They determined this by looking for Q-wave infarcations, a tell tale sign of a heart attack, in electrocardiograms (ECGs). While, 7 per cent of men with PTSD had suffered a heart attack, 1 per cent of those without PTSD had suffered a cardiac attack. Boscarino considered factors like lifestyle, smoking, substance abuse, age, race, economic status and personality.

There are a number of theories of how mental disorders affect the heart. There is evidence that stress can raise the risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Also, depressed adults tend to weigh more, which is a risk factor for heart disease. One study found that depressed patients woke up more overnight, and it’s unknown how less-restful sleep might raise the risk.

“We often tend to think these things are all in the mind. What we think are psychological effects can have significant effects on the body,” Dr Jim Bolton, consultant psychiatrist at St Helier Hospital in South London said, in an interview to ‘BBC News Online’.

Other symptoms of PTSD include intrusive memories, troubling nightmares, and constant dwelling on the event and sufferers become ‘hypervigilant’, where they are constantly on the look out, or become anxious when something acts as a reminder. Psychiatrists can treat people with the disorder by cognitive therapy, which helps the patient to file the memories away and move on, Bolton added.

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