UCSF LogoAccording to a latest study, people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) seem to perceive their heart disease as more troublesome and disabling as compared to those without PTSD, even when their actual heart health was no worse by objective measures.

The study authors were believed to have examined a group of perceived effects of heart disease as reported by 1,022 study participants including chest pain frequency, severity, limitations on physical activity, daily functioning and overall quality of life.

Furthermore, they appear to have measured the participants’ definite cardiac function according to a variety of objective measures. Apparently, these measures included treadmill exercise capacity; left ventricular ejection fraction, which measures how efficiently the heart pumps blood; and inducible ischemia, which measures how much oxygen the heart receives during exercise.

“There is something unique and independent about PTSD that makes heart disease more burdensome, irrespective of actual heart function. Unfortunately, we can’t venture to speculate what that is without more detailed data,” mentioned lead author of the study, Beth E. Cohen, MD, MAS, a staff physician at SFVAMC, an assistant professor of medicine at UCSF.

The findings of the study revealed that 95 patients with PTSD seem to have reported considerably greater perceived symptom burden, greater physical limitation, and reduced quality of life in contrast to those without PTSD, even when their objective measures of cardiac function seemed to be equal.

Moreover, the differences in perception appear to have remained even after the study authors excluded participants with depression, which can also be anticipated to affect how people perceive the severity of their heart disease.

The study is known to suggest a PTSD rate of 8 to 12 percent in the general population and 13 to 30 percent among military veterans. Cohen was of the opinion that for patients with both heart disease and PTSD, they need to examine not only improving physical measures like cholesterol and blood pressure, but also treating the symptoms of PTSD as well.

In addition to improving patients’ emotional health, their findings put forward that it may perhaps also improve their level of function and quality of life. And that’s what they’d really like to know i.e. how treating PTSD can affect heart health.

At present, Cohen along with her team is believed to be working on a follow-up study that looks at the same participants five years later. This could possibly allow them to evaluate if the people with PTSD did worse over time in terms of actual heart outcomes.

The findings of the study have been published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.