One in eight people who suffer a heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac event go on to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to an analysis of multiple studies. Furthermore, those patients who develop PTSD appear to have twice the risk of suffering another heart attack or dying within one to three years, compared to patients who didn’t develop PTSD.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that typically follows exposure to a traumatic event such as combat, disaster or assault. Symptoms include nightmares, avoidance of reminders of the event and elevated heart and blood pressure.
“The underlying similarity between heart attacks, combat experiences, even witnessing other people going through violence is that the individual perceives his or her own life is in danger,” Edmondson explained. “The person experiences the threat of mortality and feels out of control.”
The analysis, which was published in the journal PLoS One, looked at 24 separate studies involving more than 2,300 people worldwide and found approximately 12 percent of people develop clinically significant symptoms of PTSD, while 4 percent meet full diagnostic criteria for the disorder.