Aim: To asses prevalence of essential arterial hypertension in family members of soldiers killed in 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Methods: The study enrolled 1144 subjects who lost a family member in the war and 582 of their close neighbors who experienced no such loss. Data on their medical history and habits were collected, and their blood pressure was recorded in 1996 and 2003. Arterial hypertension was defined as systolic blood pressure > or =140 mm Hg (> or =130 mm Hg in patients with diabetes mellitus), or diastolic blood pressure > or =90 mm Hg (> or =80 mm Hg in patients with diabetes mellitus), or taking antihypertensive therapy. Additional laboratory and clinical tests were performed in subjects with hypertension.
Results: The prevalence of hypertension at both time points was higher in the group with a killed family member than in the group without the loss (55.1% vs 42.1%, P<0.001 in 1996, and 50.7% vs 39.0%, P<0.001 in 2003, respectively). However, there was also a significant decrease in the prevalence of hypertension in the group with the loss in 2003 (P<0.001), but not in group without the loss. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), smoking, and alcohol consumption were more prevalent in the group with a killed family member, but not cholesterol and triglyceride blood concentrations. In both groups, hypertension was more prevalent in subjects with PTSD and smoking or drinking habit. Proportion of subjects with hypertension who smoked and used alcohol was similar in both groups. Proportion of subjects with hypertension who did not smoke or drink was higher in the group with the loss (51.1% vs 36.7%, P<0.001; 46.2% vs 35.0%, P=0.006; respectively).
Conclusion: This study showed higher prevalence of hypertension in family members of killed soldiers, regardless of the presence of other cardiovascular risk factors. Only the stress of mourning was associated with higher prevalence of hypertension. Over time, proportion of hypertensive subjects with the loss decreased in the group with a killed family member, further suggesting that at least a part of their hypertension might have been of psychological origin.