PTSD Linked to Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome, And Early Markers Of Heart Disease

Megan Charles

San Francisco, CA – People diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a significantly higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome, leading to a further heightened risk of comorbid insulin resistance and precursors for heart disease.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder, distressing those who have experienced a traumatic event such as an assault or rape, domestic abuse, prolonged stay in prison, terrorism, and war.

PTSD changes the body's response to stress, causing the sufferer to be hyperaware and anxious. Nearly 8 million Americans (war veterans and civilians alike) have PTSD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Research presented at the American College of Cardiology's 62nd Annual Scientific Session asserted interventions are desperately needed in order to prevent PTSD-related metabolic disorder. The earlier the better, when the condition is still reversible.

Data was collected through Veterans Administration electronic medical records on 207,954 veterans in Southern California and Nevada. Subjects were between 46 and 74 years of age (93 percent male) with and without documented PTSD.

All subjects were identified in a primary care setting and had no known history of heart disease or diabetes.

During a median period of two years, subjects were tracked to see whether they became insulin resistant or developed metabolic syndrome. An insulin resistance can contribute to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which in turn increases the potential for a heart attack.

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical disorders that, when occurring together, increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A concurrent presence of high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, excess body fat, and abnormal cholesterol boosts the likelihood of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Aggressive lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent the onset of serious health problems from metabolic syndrome.

Post review revealed insulin resistance was higher in PTSD suffers (35 percent) in comparison to those without PTSD (19 percent). Additionally those with PTSD had a higher presence of metabolic syndrome (53 percent) than those in the non-PTSD populace (38 percent).

Even after adjusting for hereditary and biological outliers of age, gender, ethnicity, and family history of diseases, PTSD was still influential with a higher onset of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.

Typical treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder involves managing psychiatric symptoms with support groups, independent therapy, and prescribed antidepressants.

Ramin Ebrahimi, MD, professor of medicine at University of California Los Angeles and a co-lead investigator in the study, urged the importance of intervention, with identifying PTSD early on and making lifestyle modifications. Ebrahimi stated in regards of the research, "Our findings show that post-traumatic stress disorder is, by itself, an important independent predictor for these conditions in both genders."

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