Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been associated with significantly greater incidence of heart disease. Numerous studies have indicated that health problems for individuals with PTSD occur earlier in life than in the general population. Multiple mechanistic pathways have been suggested to explain cardiovascular disese (CVD) risk in PTSD, including neurochemical, behavioral, and immunological changes. The present paper is a review of recent research that examines cardiovascular and immune risk profiles of individuals with PTSD. First, we address the relatively new evidence that the constellation of risk factors commonly experienced in PTSD fits the profile of metabolic syndrome. Next we examine the findings concerning hypertension/blood pressure in particular. The literature on sympathetic and parasympathetic responsivity in PTSD is reviewed. Last, we discuss recent findings concerning immune functioning in PTSD that may have a bearing on the high rates of CVD and other illnesses. Our primary goal is to synthesize the existing literature by examining factors that overlap mechanistically to increase the risk of developing CVD in PTSD.
Keywords: Autonomic; Cardiovascular; Immune; Metabolic syndrome; Posttraumatic stress.