The impact of posttraumatic stress disorder on blood pressure and heart rate in a veteran population

J Trauma Stress. 2013 Feb;26(1):169-72. doi: 10.1002/jts.21785. Epub 2013 Jan 31.


Hyperarousal is a hallmark of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD has been associated with increased blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) in veteran populations. We retrospectively identified male patients consulted to outpatient psychiatry at the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. Patients were divided into PTSD (n = 88) and non-PTSD (n = 98) groups. All PTSD patients and a subset of non-PTSD patients had documented blast exposure during service. The study investigated whether patients with PTSD had higher systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and heart rate (HR) than patients without PTSD. The effect of trauma exposure on BP was also examined. Mean SBP (133.8 vs. 122.3 mm Hg; p < .001), DBP (87.6 vs. 78.6 mm Hg; p < .001), and HR (78.9 vs. 73.1 bpm; p < .001) were all significantly higher in the PTSD group. Trauma-exposed patients without PTSD had significantly higher BP than nonexposed patients. The prevalence of hypertension (HTN) was 34.1% (diagnosed and undiagnosed) among PTSD patients. Patients with PTSD had higher BP and HR compared to patients without PTSD. Trauma exposure may increase BP in this population. These findings will increase awareness about the cardiovascular implications of PTSD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology
  • Combat Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Combat Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Explosions
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Hypertension / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • United States
  • Veterans / psychology*