Trauma Triggers Cardiovascular Disease, Says Study
Stress-related disorders triggered by a significant life event or trauma have been linked to a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a large Swedish study published in The BMJ.
The risk of severe and acute CVD events, such as cardiac arrest and heart attack, was particularly high in the first six months after diagnosis of a stress related disorder, and within the first year for other types of CVD.
Most people are, at some point during their life, exposed to psychological trauma or stressful life events such as the death of a loved one, a period of addiction or violence.
As previous studies have mainly focused on male veterans or those currently active in the military with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), data on the effects of stress reactions on different types of CVD are limited.
The findings echo the need for periods of calm and a thorough facing of inner demons, according to Recovering Man Founder Richard Joy, who speaks about his own journey through PTSD below:
The researchers matched 136,637 people from an “exposed cohort” who were diagnosed with a stress related disorder between January 1987 and December 2013 with 171,314 full siblings who were free of stress related disorders and CVD.
For each exposed person, 10 people from the general population who were unaffected by stress related disorders and CVD at the date of diagnosis of the “exposed” patient were randomly selected.
Exposed and unexposed people were then individually matched by birth year and sex.
Severe stress reactions to significant life events or trauma were linked to a heightened risk of several types of CVD, especially during the first year after diagnosis, with a 64% higher risk among people with a stress related disorder compared to their unaffected sibling.
The findings were similar for people with a stress related disorder compared to the general population.
Also, there was a stronger link between stress-related disorders and early onset CVD – cases of disease which developed before the age of 50 – than later onset ones.
Out of all studied CVDs, the excess risk during the first year was strongest for heart failure, and for major blood clots (embolism and thrombosis) after one year.
In a linked editorial, Professor Simon Bacon from Concordia University in Canada said that the design of the study “allows us to make reasonable assumptions about the similarity of the environment, lifestyles, and health behaviors between those with a disorder and their paired siblings without one.
“Such assumptions allow inferences about other alternative potential pathways linking these disorders to CVD outcomes.”
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