Background: Studies of the cardiovascular consequences of combat stress are few and inconclusive.
Objective: The association between combat exposure and subclinical atherosclerosis at Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study visits 1 (1987-1989) and 2 (1990-1992) was assessed among 5347 men from four U.S. communities.
Methods: Measured an average of 36 years after military entry, carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) and carotid plaque among non-combat veterans (n=2127) were compared with non-veterans (n=2042) and veterans reporting combat experience (n=1178).
Results: Compared to non-combat veterans, non-veterans (risk difference (RD): 10.61; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.81, 20.41) and combat veterans (RD: 12.79; 95% CI: 0.72, 24.86) had higher age-adjusted mean CIMT. Differences remained for combat veterans after adjustment for race, father's education and age at service entry but not years of service and for non-veterans after adjustment for race but not father's education. No differences in carotid plaque were noted.
Conclusion: Results do not suggest that combat has a long-term detrimental effect on subclinical atherosclerosis among men.
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