Post-traumatic stress disorder: a fast track to premature cardiovascular disease?

Cardiol Rev. 2013 Jan-Feb;21(1):16-22. doi: 10.1097/CRD.0b013e318265343b.


An increasing body of evidence reported in the literature indicates a possible role for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a cause for cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, mechanistic evidence on the progression of adverse cardiac outcomes in PTSD is lacking. In this review, we examine the potential paths by which CVD could occur in those with PTSD. Dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and autonomic nervous dysfunction are commonly observed in PTSD, which in turn leads to a variety of physiological changes potentially damaging to the heart. Increased inflammation, dysfunction of the vascular endothelium, hypercoagulability, and cardiac hyperreactivity all have been noted in patients with PTSD. Altered neurochemistry, most notably increased arginine vasopressin, as well as an increased prevalence of the metabolic syndrome, may also contribute to adverse cardiac outcomes. Although the association between PTSD and physical disease is often complicated by health risk behaviors or comorbid psychiatric conditions, the evidence for a link between PTSD and CVD is substantial. In our examination, we attempt to identify potential cardiac biomarkers that may be useful in detecting increased cardiac risk in patients with PTSD. As research in this area is exceedingly limited, we hope to inspire further research, as there is great potential value in identifying prognostically useful cardiac biomarkers so as to predict and prevent the onset of CVD in patients with PTSD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases / psychology
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Immune System Diseases / psychology
  • Metabolic Diseases / psychology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology


  • Biomarkers