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Cardiovascular Risk and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder - Symptoms and Prevention

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Post-traumatic disorder has a great influence on cardiovascular health. Read the article to know in detail.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq

Published At January 5, 2023
Reviewed AtJanuary 5, 2023

Introduction

Heart disorders and stress play an important role in a human’s life. With the constantly changing lifestyle and environmental factors, humans are highly prone to various health conditions drastically affecting their daily activities. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and alcohol abuse have a major impact on the cardiac health of an individual. Irrespective of the health conditions, an individual is susceptible to stress due to various causes. Sometimes the impact of stress may last longer than usual, resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder. Stress keeps the body alert and brings out a fight and flight response. This can affect the heart as it pumps extra blood during stressful conditions to compensate for the stressful situation.

In the long term, stress can affect the functions of the heart and cause various cardiovascular diseases. Hence, it is important to understand the relationship between post-traumatic disorder and cardiovascular risk to understand the outcome of the condition better and treat it accordingly.

What Is Cardiovascular Disease?

The disease affecting the heart and the blood vessels supplying the heart is called cardiovascular disease. Most cardiovascular diseases include heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve complications. These are the leading causes of death globally, with an estimated 17.9 million surviving each year. Poor physical activity and an unhealthy diet may contribute to cardiovascular disease. In addition, the harmful use of alcohol and tobacco also affects heart health. It causes increased blood pressure, blood sugar, and high lipids, frequently resulting in obesity.

What Is Cardiovascular Risk?

The cardiovascular risk may vary with each individual depending on the underlying medical and health conditions. Some of the common risks are listed below.

  • Diabetes mellitus.

  • Obesity.

  • High blood pressure.

What Are the Symptoms of Cardiovascular Risk?

The symptoms of cardiovascular risk may manifest in various forms in each individual. Some of the commonly occurring symptoms are mentioned below.

  • Chest pain.

  • Chest tightness.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Pain in the neck.

  • Weakness.

  • Dizziness.

  • Swollen limbs.

  • Fatigue or tiredness.

  • Lightheadedness.

  • Palpitations.

Who Is at Risk of Cardiovascular Disease?

Adults over 65 years are highly susceptible to cardiovascular disease. Aging causes changes in the heart, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Nowadays, even young individuals are susceptible to heart conditions due to constant exposure to stress and diet habits. Many individuals die at 30 years due to heart attack or stroke, and the cause of death is unexpected. Hence, irrespective of whether younger or older individuals, frequent health check-ups to monitor an individual's wellness are crucial to lead a healthy life.

What Is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

Stress plays a major role in an individual’s life. It is a mental health condition that can be altered after a terrifying event. The risk factors associated with the disorder are mentioned below.

  • Experiencing long-lasting trauma.

  • Substance misuse.

  • Alcohol addiction.

  • Lack of a good support system from family and friends.

  • May have experienced child abuse in the early stage of life.

The common events that play a pivotal role in post-traumatic stress disorder are

  • Combat exposure.

  • Sexual violence.

  • Physical assault.

  • Accident.

  • Childhood physical abuse.

What Are the Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

The symptoms vary with each individual. It can start within a month or years after the traumatic experience. It causes significant problems in relationships and social or work situations. In some cases, it may affect daily tasks. The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can be grouped into four.

Intrusive Memories

  • Unwanted and recurrent memories of the traumatic event.

  • Dreams or nightmares about the event.

  • Severe emotional distress.

  • Recurrence of the traumatic event.

Avoidance

  • Avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event.

  • Avoiding the places or people reminding the event.

Negative Changes in Thinking

  • Negative thoughts about people in the world.

  • A sense of hopelessness.

  • Memory problems.

  • Detaching themselves from the world.

  • Lack of interest in activities.

  • Emotional numbness.

  • Difficulty in maintaining relationships.

Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions

  • Being easily startled or frightened.

  • Difficulty sleeping.

  • Poor concentration.

  • Easy irritability.

  • Aggressive behavior.

  • Overwhelming guilt.

Young children may also experience symptoms like re-enacting the traumatic event and experiencing frightening dreams.

What Are the Causes of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be caused due to an individual's experience that has a heavy impact on life. Other reasons include genetic reasons or a family history of anxiety and depression. It regulates the chemicals and hormones in the body.

Various epidemiologic studies show clinical evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder directly associated with heart disease. The affected individuals may experience

Increased activity may affect the catecholamine's effect on heart vasculature and platelet function. The cardiovascular alterations associated with post-traumatic stress disorder are

  • Autonomic arousal.

  • Increased basal heart rate.

  • High blood pressure.

How to Prevent Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

Affected individuals should get timely help and support, which prevents normal stress reactions from worsening. The common reasons for trauma include fear, anxiety, and anger. It is also advised to seek help from a healthcare professional and attend therapy or sessions with a psychiatrist to help overcome the disorder. It is important to have faith and willpower before proceeding with the therapy. Some may overcome in a short span, while others may take years to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder. Even after therapy, there are chances of recurrence of the disorder. With constant efforts, an individual can overcome the condition and enjoy a healthy and normal life.

Conclusion

Post-traumatic stress disorder poses high risks to the heart, thereby increasing cardiovascular risk. Getting timely help from a mental health professional can help to deal with stressful conditions without affecting overall health. Finding distractions and regular exercise can keep the body healthy and focused. Maintaining a healthy heart is crucial to ensure proper blood and oxygen distribution throughout the heart. Negligence can affect an individual’s health resulting in complications. Since the effects of stress on the heart are high, it is important to consult a doctor and get immediate health. Frequent follow-ups are crucial to knowing health status and leading a quality life.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Is the Epidemiology of Post-Traumatic Disorder?

The epidemiology of post-traumatic disorder has been estimated to be 6 % to approximately 10.1 % in America. It has been suggested that at least one-third of the general population will be exposed to severe traumatic disorders during their lifetime.

2.

What Is Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

The exposure and response prevention technique is a behavioral therapy where people are exposed to situations that provoke their mental obsessions and the resulting distress. This technique helps them prevent compulsive responses. 

3.

What Are Some Examples of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

Some examples of traumatic events include:
- Natural calamities include a tornado, hurricanes, fires, or floods.
- Sexual abuse.
- Physical violence.
- Witness the shooting or killing of a person.
- The sudden demise of a parent.
- Encountering a serious illness or cancer.

4.

Does Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Work for Post-traumatic Disorder?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy or talk therapy for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. This therapy helps process depressing memories, thoughts, and bad feelings related to the trauma. By reprocessing those experiences, one can get relief from the disease symptoms.

5.

Does Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Is Considered a Disability?

Social Security Administration (SSA) considers post-traumatic stress disorder a disability. It falls under trauma and stress-related disorders that usually occur after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event.

6.

What Is the Best Definition of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Psychology?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be best defined as an anxiety disorder or a mental health condition that develops due to physical assault or severe emotional distress, such as military combat, violence, natural catastrophe, or other life-threatening events.

7.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

Diagnosis of PTSD can be made by doing a thorough physical exam to check for medical health issues that may be causing the symptoms. A psychological evaluation should also be carried out, including a discussion of the signs and symptoms and the events that led to them.

8.

Is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder a Chronic Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a chronic, fluctuating disorder that affects adults' mental quality of life. If the symptoms last more than three months, it is termed a chronic disorder.

9.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help to Treat Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been helpful in treating post-traumatic stress disorder for many years. This therapy aims to improve a person's mental functioning by changing their behavioral pattern, thoughts, and feelings.

10.

How Does Smoking Affect the Heart?

Smoking increases plaque formation in the coronary blood vessels. Coronary Heart disease develops when arteries that carry pure blood to the heart muscles are constricted by plaque formation or blocked by clots. 

11.

How Is Cardiovascular Risk Disease Calculated?

The risk is calculated using the nine factors – age, gender, ethnicity, cholesterol, blood pressure, a habit of smoking, and the presence of diabetes. It generates one of four risk scores: low, borderline, intermediate, or high.

12.

How to Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases?

- Do not smoke or consume tobacco.
- Regular walks for 30-45 minutes daily.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Take good quality sleep.
- Manage stress by practicing yoga and meditation.
- Get regular health check-ups done.
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Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq
Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq

Cardiology

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post traumatic stress disordercardiovascular disease risk
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