Astounding Percentage of Heart Failure Patients Suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Stress & Heart Attack RiskAn alarming percentage of people who suffer heart attacks or other acute coronary events, one in eight, experience clinically significant symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical or personal harm occurred or was threatened to occur. Post-traumatic stress disorder, usually, associated with military personal after war or sexual assault victims, is now being referenced for heart failure patients.

Each year, about 1.4 million people in the United States experience an acute coronary syndrome (ACS), a condition brought about by sudden reduced blood flow to the heart. The most common symptom prompting diagnosis of ACS is chest pain, often radiating of the left arm or angle of the jaw, pressure-like in character, and associated with nausea and sweating. Numerous small studies have suggested that ACS-induced PTSD is common and can have serious health consequences, but its prevalence is not known.

To understand the severity of the problem, the first combined review, or meta-analysis, of clinical studies of ACS-induced PTSD was recently conducted. The 24 studies in the meta-analysis included a total of 2,383 ACS patients from around the globe.

The research conducted suggests that clinically significant PTSD symptoms induced by ACS are moderately prevalent and are associated with increased risk for recurrent cardiac events and mortality. Although, further tests of the association of ACS-induced PTSD and clinical outcomes are needed, the numbers are significant; overall 12 percent (one in eight) of the patients in the study developed clinically significant PTSD symptoms and four percent of study participants met full diagnostic criteria for the ACS-induced PTSD.

Dr. Donald Edmondson, leader of the study, stated, “Given that some 1.4 million ACS patients are discharged from the U.S. hospitals each year, our results suggest that 168,000 patients will develop clinically significant PTSD symptoms. That is quite substantial. However, there is abundant evidence that psychological disorders in heart patients are under recognized and undertreated. In fact, under diagnosis may be even more pronounced in cardiac practices than in other types of medical practices.”  Edmondson also states that “Fortunately, there are good treatments for people with PTSD, but first, physicians and patients have to be aware that this is a problem. Family members can also help. We know that social support is a good protective factor against PTSD due to any type of traumatic event.”

For more information on the ACS induced PTSD analysis, you can review the paper titled “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Induced by Acute Coronary Syndrome: A meta analytic review of prevalence and associated clinical outcomes.” or check out the video below with Emory’s, Dr. Laurence Sperling, Director for the Center of Heart Disease prevention at the Emory Clinic.

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