PTSD Linked to Ischemic Heart Disease
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A study using data from Veterans Health Administration (VHA) electronic medical records shows a significant association between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among female veterans and an increased risk for incident ischemic heart disease (IHD).

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with greater risk of ischemic heart disease (IHD) in predominantly male populations or limited community samples. Women veterans represent a growing, yet understudied, population with high levels of trauma exposure and unique cardiovascular risks, but research on PTSD and IHD in this group is lacking.

This study aimed to determine whether PTSD is associated with incident IHD in women veterans.

In this retrospective, longitudinal cohort study of the national Veterans Health Administration (VHA) electronic medical records, the a priori hypothesis that PTSD would be associated with greater risk of IHD onset was tested. Women veterans 18 years or older with and without PTSD who were patients in the VHA, were assessed for study eligibility. Exclusion criteria consisted of no VHA clinical encounters after the index visit, IHD diagnosis at or before the index visit, and IHD diagnosis within 90 days of the index visit. Propensity score matching on age at index visit, number of prior visits, and presence of traditional and female-specific cardiovascular risk factors and mental and physical health conditions was conducted to identify women veterans ever diagnosed with PTSD, who were matched in a 1:2 ratio to those never diagnosed with PTSD.

PTSD, defined by International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9), or International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision (ICD-10), diagnosis codes from inpatient or outpatient encounters.

Incident IHD, defined as new-onset coronary artery disease, angina, or myocardial infarction, based on ICD-9 and ICD-10 diagnosis codes from inpatient or outpatient encounters, and/or coronary interventions based on Current Procedural Terminology codes.

-- A total of 398 769 women veterans, 132?923 with PTSD and 265?846 never diagnosed with PTSD, were included in the analysis. Baseline mean age was 40.1?years.

-- During median follow-up of 4.9 years, 4381 women with PTSD (3.3%) and 5559 control individuals (2.1%) developed incident IHD.

-- In a Cox proportional hazards model, PTSD was significantly associated with greater risk of developing IHD.

-- Secondary stratified analyses indicated that younger age identified women veterans with PTSD who were at greater risk of incident IHD.

-- Effect sizes were largest for those younger than 40 years at baseline and decreased monotonically with increasing age.

Conclusively, this cohort study found that PTSD was associated with increased risk of IHD in women veterans and may have implications for IHD risk assessment in vulnerable individuals.