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Heart attacks and strokes linked to PTSD

New research reveals that patients who suffer from a traumatic medical event may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Typically associated with events such as battlefield combat or sexual assaults, PTSD can have debilitating effects.

Studies conducted by Dr. Donald Edmondson and his colleagues found that nearly 25 percent of stroke patients and 12 percent of  heart attack patients develop PTSD within one year of the event. Even more alarming, heart attack patients who did develop the disorder were two times as likely to have another heart attack or die within three years.

The sample group was small, and Edmondson acknowledges more research is needed. However, CNN reports in a separate study, “Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University found 20% of people who underwent low-back fusion surgery suffered from the disorder.” Most doctors are unaware that these traumatic medical events can cause PTSD, so patients are seldom warned or given information about the disorder.

Edmondson attributes part of the problem is the focus patients are required to give to their ailments. “For someone who has a heart attack or stroke, we actually prescribe that they pay attention to the very reminders of their heart attack or stroke – increased heart rate, blood pressure,” he said. “They’re constantly having to think about it.” Patients suffering from PTSD may actually neglect their own care because they don’t want to think about the traumatic event. Edmondson found some heart attack survivors even stopped taking their medication.

If you think you or someone you love is suffering from PTSD following a traumatic medical event, seek professional help. The anxiety, loss of sleep, irritability, and depression the disorder can cause may affect recovery and long-term health.

For more information about PTSD, contact your health care provider or download the CDC’s fact sheet, “Coping with a Traumatic Event.”


Source:Patients suffer from PTSD after heart attack, stroke” By Jacque Wilson, CNN, June 21, 2013