Soldiers’ Clogged Arteries A Surprising Find In Combat Deaths

Soldiers with clogged arteries may at first sound like a symptom of creeping obesity in all portions of the American populace, but a new study reveals what many doctors already know — heart disease is a silent killer, and even the fittest among us can be affected.

The soldiers’ clogged arteries were uncovered during the course of a study led by Dr. Bryant Webber, from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. Examining autopsy findings of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Webber and his team discovered that of the young and healthy men who died in combat, one of every 12 had signs of atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in arteries around their hearts — which is an early red flag for heart disease.

According to Webber, the soldiers’ clogged arteries were worryingly observed in men who had not been diagnosed with the condition prior to deployment — but he adds that the findings indicate that the condition is far more insidious than many Americans realize, and that it can strike even those among us who are in shape and enjoy relatively good health.

Webber said of the soldiers’ clogged arteries and the risks posed by the often undetected atherosclerosis:

“This is a young, healthy, fit group … These are people who are asymptomatic, they feel fine, they’re deployed into combat … It just proves again the point that we know that this is a clinically silent disease, meaning people can go years without being diagnosed, having no signs or symptoms of the disease.”


Dr. Daniel Levy, director of the Center for Population Studies at the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Bethesda agreed, and refers back to a far older study illustrating the issue decades ago. Levy commented:

“We had a wake-up call 60 years ago when data from young soldiers killed in the Korean War showed a very high prevalence of coronary disease.”

The study detailing soldiers’ clogged arteries was published in today’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.