Stroke Journal Report
Young adults who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be more likely to experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or major stroke event by middle age, raising the risk as much as other better-known risk factors, according to new research published in Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association.
“Stroke has a devastating impact on young patients and their families, many of whom struggle to cope with long-term disability, depression and economic loss during their most productive years,” said Lindsey Rosman, Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. “Ten to 14% of ischemic strokes occur in adults ages 18 to 45, and we don’t really have a good understanding of the risk factors for stroke in this age group.”
While PTSD has previously been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke in older adults, this is the first study to demonstrate a link between trauma-induced stress disorders and the risk of TIA and stroke in young and middle-aged adults, an age group that has experienced a striking increase in stroke events over the past decade.
Although this study was conducted solely in veterans, PTSD is a debilitating mental condition that affects nearly 8 million adults in the U.S. and about 30 percent of veterans. People who observe or directly experience a traumatic event such as sexual assault, gun violence/mass shooting, military combat or a natural disaster may develop long-lasting symptoms of anxiety, avoidance, hypervigilance, anger/irritability, flashbacks and nightmares. “PTSD is not just a veteran issue, it’s a serious public health problem,” Rosman said.