Heart disease

What is heart disease and 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 it is associated with dysfunction of the immunological system and excess inflammation. This 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.

What is the evidence for heart disease?

High quality evidence finds a small increased risk of coronary heart disease in people with PTSD than in people without the disorder.

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 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

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Last updated at: 12:47 am, 26th October 2021
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