Extreme stress reactions to terrorist attacks associated with subsequent heart problems

Jan 07, 2008

Individuals who experienced severe stress-related symptoms in response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 appear more likely to have been diagnosed with heart problems over the following three years, according to a report in the January issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

“Extremely stressful events may precipitate biological processes that increase one’s risk of developing cardiovascular ailments,” the authors write as background information in the article. “While acute stress may trigger immediate potentially lethal cardiovascular responses, acute, subacute and chronic stress can gradually increase cardiovascular risk through neurohormonal arousal. This physiologic reactivity may be easily rekindled by trauma reminders, leaving individuals vulnerable to the detrimental effects of arousal over time.”

E. Alison Holman, F.N.P., Ph.D., of the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues studied a national sample of 2,729 adults. Of these, 95 percent (2,592) had completed an online health assessment before the terrorist attacks. About nine to 14 days following the attacks, they responded to a Web-based survey regarding their acute stress responses, such as anxiety, dissociative symptoms (feeling detached from oneself or the world) or a re-experiencing of the event. Participants were then surveyed yearly about their health for three years.

Before the attacks, 21.5 percent of the participants had been diagnosed with a heart ailment; three years after the attacks, the rate had increased to 30.5 percent. “Acute stress responses to the 9/11 attacks were associated with a 53 percent increased incidence of cardiovascular ailments over the three subsequent years, even after adjusting for pre-9/11 cardiovascular and mental health status, degree of exposure to the attacks, cardiovascular risk factors (i.e. smoking, body mass index and number of endocrine ailments), total number of physical health ailments, somatization [the conversion of psychological symptoms into physical symptoms] and demographics,” the authors write.

Participants who reported high levels of acute stress immediately after the attacks were about twice as likely to report being diagnosed with hypertension and about three times as likely to report a diagnosis of heart problems over the following two years. “Among individuals reporting ongoing worry about terrorism post-9/11, high 9/11–related acute stress symptoms predicted increased risk of physician-diagnosed heart problems two to three years following the attacks,” the authors write.

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Explore further: Italian army to grow medical marijuana

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The heart of an astronaut, five years on

Jul 22, 2014

The heart of an astronaut is a much-studied thing. Scientists have analyzed its blood flow, rhythms, atrophy and, through journal studies, even matters of the heart. But for the first time, researchers are ...

Stress in middle age could contribute to late-life dementia

Aug 16, 2010

Psychological stress in middle age could lead to the development of dementia later in life, especially Alzheimer's disease, reveals research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Based on data from a study which followed ...

Guns aren't the only things killing cops

Apr 11, 2014

The public does not realize—in fact, police themselves may not realize—that the dangers police officers are exposed to on a daily basis are far worse than anything on "Law and Order."

It's not just the heat – it's the ozone

Jul 19, 2013

During heat waves – when ozone production rises – plants' ozone absorption is curtailed, leaving more pollution in the air, and costing an estimated 460 lives in the UK in the hot summer of 2006.

Pig stress syndrome linked to gene defect

Apr 30, 2013

Undergoing surgery, even a minor procedure, can be stressful for anyone. But for people who have malignant hyperthermia, a hereditary disease that's triggered by certain drugs used for general anesthesia, ...

Recommended for you

Non-stop PET/CT scan provides accurate images

5 hours ago

Siemens is improving PET/CT imaging and data quality while reducing radiation exposure. The Biograph mCT Flow PET/CT scanner is a new positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) system that, ...

Experts: Chopin's heart shows signs of TB

Sep 17, 2014

The preserved heart of composer Frederic Chopin contains signs of tuberculosis and possibly some other lung disease, medical experts said Wednesday.

The argument in favor of doping

Sep 17, 2014

Ahead of Friday's court ruling on whether ASADA's investigation into the Essendon Football Club was lawful, world leader in practical and medical ethics Professor Julian Savulescu, looks at whether there is a role for performance-enhancing ...

User comments : 0