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Objective Evidence of Myocardial Ischemia in Patients with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder



Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), but few studies have included objective measures of CVD and how PTSD causes CVD remains unknown. We sought to determine the association between PTSD and objectively assessed CVD and examine potential underlying mechanisms.


Outpatients from two Veterans Affairs Medical Centers were enrolled from 2008 to 2010. Posttraumatic stress disorder was identified using the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale, and standardized exercise treadmill tests were performed to detect myocardial ischemia.


Of the 663 participants with complete data, ischemia was present in 17% of patients with PTSD versus 10% of patients without PTSD (p = .006). The association between PTSD and ischemia remained significant after adjusting for potential confounders (age, sex, prior CVD) and mediators (traditional cardiac risk factors, C-reactive protein, obesity, alcohol use, sleep quality, social support, and depression), adjusted odds ratio (OR) 2.42, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.39 to 4.22, p = .002. Findings remained significant when those with prior CVD were excluded (fully adjusted OR 2.24, 95% CI 1.20-4.18, p = .01) and when continuous PTSD symptom score was used as the predictor (fully adjusted OR per 10-point change in Clinician Administered PTSD Scale score 1.12, 95% CI 1.03-1.22, p = .01).


Posttraumatic stress disorder was associated with ischemic changes on exercise treadmill tests independent of traditional cardiac risk factors, C-reactive protein, and several health behaviors and psychosocial risk factors, suggesting additional mechanisms linking PTSD and ischemia should be explored. The association of PTSD and ischemia among patients without known CVD highlights an opportunity for early interventions to prevent progression of cardiovascular disease.

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