PTSD In Veterans May Also Increase The Risk Of Heart Failure

First Posted: May 27, 2015 01:28 PM EDT

New findings published in the American Journal of Public Health reveal that over 8,000 veterans living in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands are dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder, and nearly 50 percent risked developing heart failure over about a seven-year follow-up period when compared to peers not dealing with the issue.

The study illustrates a concerning trend between the mental health issue and exacerbating other health conditions. However, researchers reiterated that a clear cause-and-effect relationship cannot be made at this time.

"There are many theories as to how exactly PTSD contributes to heart disease," Dr. Alyssa Mansfield, one of the study authors, said in a statement. "Overall, the evidence to date seems to point in the direction of a causal relationship."

For the study, researchers tracked over 8,000 veterans who had been outpatients in the VA Pacific Islands system. The researchers then followed them for an average of just about seven years.

Findings revealed that those with a PTSD diagnosis were about 47 percent more likely to develop heart failure during the follow-up period, even after looking at other differences between certain groups in health as well as demographic factors.

Furthermore, out of the total study group, 12 percent were diagnosed with PTSD. Of the total 371 cases of heart failure during the study, 287 occurred among those with PTSD, whereas only 84 cases occurred among the group without PTSD.

Previous studies have shown that being in combat revealed a strong link to PTSD. Furthermore, veterans in combat were up to five times more likely to develop heart failure during the study period.

Heart failure, in which the heart grows so weak that it cannot adequately pump enough blood to supply the body's needs, affects close to 5 million Americans, with close to 500,000 new cases every year. The health issue can leave those with the condition feeling very weak, as the muscles are not getting the blood that they need to work properly. 

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