Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have long-term effects on heart health, based on a recent study that links PTSD to increased risk for high blood pressure in injured soldiers.
Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, this study explored the long-term effects of stress on blood pressure in military members. The goal was to see whether PTSD is associated with high blood pressure—a common condition that increases risk for life-threatening heart events.
The study included 3,846 U.S. soldiers who were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2002 and 2011. The average age of participants was 26 years and all were severely injured during their tour, requiring treatment in an intensive care unit.
After linking data with electronic medical records, researchers found that nearly half (42%) of participants were diagnosed with PTSD, and 14% were diagnosed with high blood pressure in the years following their injury.
Analysis showed that soldiers with PTSD were 77–85% more likely to develop high blood pressure than those without the disorder. Researchers also found that the more severe the injury, the more likely participants were to develop high blood pressure.
According to authors, findings show a potential pathway linking combat injuries to poorer heart health.
Previous studies have linked PTSD to increased risk for conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and death. Recent findings suggest that combat trauma induces stress, which in turn may increase blood pressure and future heart risks.
Authors note that further research is needed to confirm these associations. However, findings highlight the importance of blood pressure monitoring in patients with PTSD.
High blood pressure is a common condition that affects an estimated 1 in 3 American adults. Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure increases risk for heart attack, stroke and other serious complications.
If soldiers with PTSD are more likely to develop high blood pressure, it’s important that they keep a close eye on their blood pressure levels and take steps to improve their heart health. Authors also encourage future research to help improve health outcomes in soldiers and other individuals whose lives are affected by PTSD.