Risk for Incident Hypertension Associated With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Military Veterans and the Effect of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Treatment

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Abstract

Objective

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increases cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular mortality risk. Neither the prospective relationship of PTSD to incident hypertension risk nor the effect of PTSD treatment on hypertension risk has been established.

Methods

Data from a nationally representative sample of 194,319 veterans were drawn from the Veterans Administration (VA) roster of United States service men and women. This included veterans whose end of last deployment was from September 2001 to July 2010 and whose first VA medical visit was from October 1, 2001 to January 1, 2009. Incident hypertension was modeled as 3 events: (1) a new diagnosis of hypertension and/or (2) a new prescription for antihypertensive medication, and/or (3) a clinic blood pressure reading in the hypertensive range (≥140/90 mm Hg, systolic/diastolic). Posttraumatic stress disorder diagnosis was the main predictor. Posttraumatic stress disorder treatment was defined as (1) at least 8 individual psychotherapy sessions of 50 minutes or longer during any consecutive 6 months and/or (2) a prescription for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medication.

Results

Over a median 2.4-year follow-up, the incident hypertension risk independently associated with PTSD ranged from hazard ratio (HR), 1.12 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.08–1.17; p < .0001) to HR, 1.30 (95% CI, 1.26–1.34; p < .0001). The interaction of PTSD and treatment revealed that treatment reduced the PTSD-associated hypertension risk (e.g., from HR, 1.44 [95% CI, 1.38–1.50; p < .0001] for those untreated, to HR, 1.20 [95% CI, 1.15–1.25; p < .0001] for those treated).

Conclusions

These results indicate that reducing the long-term health impact of PTSD and the associated costs may require very early surveillance and treatment.

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