A large Swedish population study has found strong links between psychiatric conditions that can follow extremely stressful experiences and the risk of several types of cardiovascular disease.
The link between acute stress and cardiovascular symptoms may be bidirectional, suggests new research.
In addition, the researchers found that the risk of a heart attack and other sudden and severe cardiovascular events is especially high in the 6 months that follow the diagnosis of the stress-related condition.
For other types of cardiovascular disease — such as heart failure, a disease that develops slowly — the risk appears to be highest during the 12 months that follow the psychiatric diagnosis.
For embolism and thrombosis, which are major conditions that develop from blood clots, the risk is likely higher 1 year or more after a diagnosis of stress-induced illness.
In a paper in The BMJ about the study, the authors state that the findings apply “equally to men and women” and do not depend on medical history, family background, or having other psychiatric illnesses.
They also note that the results support those of previous studies on relations between stress-induced conditions and cardiovascular disease.
However, most previous findings have come from research that drew largely on male war veterans or men on active military service, and they also focused almost entirely on PTSD, with symptom data from self-reports.