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Post-traumatic stress disorder: breaking hearts

Laurie A. Tomlinson, John R. Cockcroft
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehq404 668-669 First published online: 2 November 2010

This editorial refers to ‘Stiffness of large arteries and cardiovascular risk in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder’, by J. Walczewska et al., on page 730

Worry and stress affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system and profoundly affects heart action.Charles William Mayo 1889–1968 When Charles William Mayo, the son of the founder of the Mayo Clinic, made this statement linking stress to cardiac disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was not a recognized entity. However, his words have since proved prophetic.

The modern world is not a peaceful place, with a number of long-term ongoing conflicts exposing ever more young men and women to the horrors of modern warfare. Inevitably this has led to an increasing number of individuals being diagnosed with PTSD. What effects this will inflict on sufferers when they reach older age are largely unknown. However, given the likelihood of ever-increasing numbers, this is an important question.

Although there is now considerable epidemiological evidence demonstrating an association between PTSD and cardiovascular (CV) disease,1 the mechanisms remain unclear. Aortic stiffness has emerged as a major independent risk factor for CV disease in a number of population-based studies,2 and a recent …