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Young adults who develop PTSD after a traumatic event (e.g., gun violence, sexual assault, military combat or natural disaster) may be more likely to experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or major stroke event by middle age, according to new research published in Stroke.
Researchers analyzed medical data from more than one million young and middle-aged veterans enrolled in healthcare services provided by the Veterans Health Administration (mostly males, age 18-60, average age of 30, 2 out of 3 white) and had served in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. None had previously experienced a TIA or stroke.
- During 13 years of follow-up, 766 veterans had a TIA, and 1,877 had an ischemic stroke.
- 29% were diagnosed with PTSD, and veterans with PTSD were twice as likely to have a TIA, raising the risk more than established risk factors such as diabetes and sleep apnea.
- Veterans with PTSD were 62% more likely to have a stroke, raising the risk more than lifestyle factors such as obesity and smoking.
- Veterans with PTSD were more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and getting little exercise, that raise the risk for stroke.
Even after adjusting for multiple stroke risk factors, co-existing psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety, as well as drug and alcohol abuse, veterans with PTSD were still 61% more likely to have a TIA and 36% more likely to have a stroke than veterans without PTSD. There was a stronger link between PTSD and stroke in men than in women.
Lindsey Rosman, Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill said, “Clinicians should be aware that mental health conditions such as PTSD are increasingly prevalent among young people and may have major implications for their risk of stroke. Our findings raise important questions about whether early recognition and successful treatment of PTSD can prevent or decrease the likelihood of developing stroke in those exposed to violence, trauma and severe adversity.” (Excerpts from American Heart Association, Oct. 17, 2019)
Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Past National President IMA