Is There a Link Between Heart Disease and PTSD?


shutterstock_95998706A 2015 study, published by the American Heart Association, showed a connection between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and heart disease in women. The long-term study found that women who expressed at least four symptoms of PTSD have a 60 percent greater chance of having a heart attack or stroke. And women who’ve experienced a traumatic event without symptoms of PTSD have a 40 percent increased risk of developing heart disease.

The study’s findings shed new light on the cause of heart disease in some women. So, how might PTSD and heart disease be connected?

Stress Levels

It’s believed that people who experience trauma have elevated stress levels. Although the initial trauma may have passed, the perceived threat can linger, which causes the body to produce cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol has been associated with a greater risk of heart attack.

Increased Heart Rate

People who’ve endured a traumatic event often have increased heart rates due to being hypersensitive to their surroundings. This faster heart rate can put additional strain on the cardiovascular system, resulting in a heightened risk of heart disease.

Sleep Disorders

PTSD can cause sleep disruption, as a result of nightmares or insomnia. In general, sleep disorders are considered to be a risk factor for heart disease.

Unhealthy Behaviors

It’s common for those who’ve experienced trauma to participate in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and drinking alcohol. These lifestyle habits can contribute to heart disease.

Hope for Sufferers

While PTSD may be a contributor to heart disease in women, it’s a condition that can be treated effectively. A doctor can prescribe antidepressants and other medications which have been shown to help alleviate symptoms. Medical treatment and therapy can aid in reducing or eliminating PTSD symptoms and improving quality of life and overall health.