Heart disease

How is heart disease related to PTSD?

People with mental disorders often show increased rates of co-occurring physical conditions such as heart disease. An increased risk of heart disease in people with PTSD may be a consequence of the disorder itself as PTSD is associated with dysfunction of the immunological system and excess inflammation, which in turn is associated with significant cardiovascular health problems. Unhealthy lifestyle factors such as smoking and poor diet may also contribute to any increased risk of heart disease and these factors are also prevalent in people with PTSD.

What is the evidence for heart disease in people with PTSD?

High quality evidence finds a small increased risk of coronary heart disease in people with PTSD (with or without comorbid depression) compared to people without PTSD.

Moderate quality evidence finds large effects of lower high-frequency and RMSSD (root mean square of the successive differences) heart rate variability in people with PTSD. These effects were largest in clinical populations. There was also a small increased risk of lower resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia. There was no change in low-frequency heart rate variability. The results remained similar regardless of medication status, year of publication, study quality score, study methodology, or participant age or sex.

Moderate to high quality evidence finds a small association between increased PTSD symptoms and increased cardio-respiratory symptoms in general.

August 2021

Image: ©azure – Fotolia – stock.adobe.com

Last updated at: 3:11 am, 3rd August 2021
To view documentation related to this topic download the files below
Fact Sheet Technical Commentary

NeuRA Libraries

Title Colour Legend:
Green - Topic summary is available.
Orange - Topic summary is being compiled.
Red - Topic summary has no current systematic review available.