Female Veterans with PTSD at Higher Risk of Heart Disease

Non-white veteran women of color may be at greater risk of developing heart disease, according to research.

Female veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially younger women who are non-white, have an increased risk of developing heart disease.

Findings such as these were presented Friday, November 13, through Tuesday, November 17, at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020.

The presenter was Ramin Ebrahimi, MD, professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and director of interventional cardiovascular research and co-director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at the Greater Los Angeles VA (Veterans Affairs) Medical Center.

“Previous research has linked PTSD to higher risks of ischemic heart disease, including heart attacks and heart pain or angina. However, most of those studies have been in men,” Ebrahimi said to the press.1

To conduct the study, Ebrahimi evaluated medical records of female veterans cared for at all US Veterans Health Administration centers between 2000 and the end of 2017. The research team identified nearly 130,000 female veterans with PTSD and nearly 260,000 without the mental health condition. They assessed records for annual exams, emergency room visits and other exams/hospitalizations for new diagnoses of coronary artery disease, angina, or heart attacks.

According to Ebrahimi, they found that women with PTSD had a 44% higher risk of developing ischemic heart disease compared to those without PTSD, and the increased risk was more prominent in younger women, especially those younger than 40 years old (72%).

The increased heart disease risk among female veterans with PTSD was also higher in racial and ethnic minorities, including Black women, non-white women from other racial backgrounds and women of Hispanic and Latinx ethnicity, compared with white female veterans.

“Our results suggest that health care professionals should consider more routine and earlier screening for cardiovascular disorders in women with PTSD,” Ebrahimi said.

Reference

1. American Heart Association. Women veterans with PTSD have higher rate of heart disease. News release. November 9, 2020. Accessed November 13, 2020. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-11/aha-wvw110220.php