February is Heart Month and so it’s fitting to talk about the link between PTSD and heart disease. While heart disease is common in U.S. veterans with post-traumatic stress-disorder (PTSD), the disorder itself doesn’t raise the risk, according to a new study.
Instead, it’s likely a combination of factors, including other physical and psychiatric disorders and high rates of smoking common among people with PTSD.
Researchers analyzed the health records of more than 2,500 veterans with PTSD and more than 1,600 without PTSD. Ages ranged from 30 to 70. According to the study, they found that those with PTSD had significantly higher rates of the following conditions/lifestyle factors linked with heart disease:
- Anxiety disorders
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
“Recognizing that PTSD does not preordain cardiovascular disease may empower patients to seek care to prevent and/or manage [heart disease] risk factors,” study author Jeffrey Scherrer, research director in the department of family and community medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri, told HealthDay.
Substance Abuse and Heart Health
Unfortunately, studies show that people with PTSD are also at high risk of substance use disorder. More than 2 of 10 Veterans with PTSD also have a substance use disorder. Some people try to cope with PTSD symptoms by drinking heavily, using drugs or smoking too much. People who have problems with drugs or alcohol are also more likely to develop PTSD, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
Drinking and doing drugs can take a devastating toll on your mental and physical health, including your cardiovascular health. For example, doing cocaine just one time can strain your heart, leading to high blood pressure, stiffer arteries and thicker heart muscles. And a person who smokes pot has a nearly five times greater risk of having a heart attack than a non-smoker. Chronic drinking can also harm your heart, resulting in diseases of the heart muscle, called cardiomyopathy, and increased blood pressure.
Treating Addiction Among Military Personnel
Unsurprisingly, members of the military who have experienced multiple deployments and combat exposure are more likely to suffer alcohol- and other drug-related problems and to abuse prescription medications to cope with PTSD. At NorthStar Transitions, we are proud to serve the men and women who have served our nation. To learn more about our active military program, call today: 303-558-6400.