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Studies Tie Stress From Storms, War To Heart Risks

"Twenty or 30 years ago PTSD was a term reserved for combat veterans. We have come to realize now that PTSD is actually a much more common disorder and it can happen in veterans who did not undergo combat but had a very traumatic experience" such as losing a friend, he said.

That goes for others who suffer trauma such as being raped, robbed at gunpoint or in a serious accident, he said. Nearly 8 million Americans have PTSD, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates.

They include survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Tulane Medical Center doctors led a study of their hospital's patients that suggests heart attack incidence is three times higher in New Orleans than it was in the two years before the 2005 storm.

Heart attacks made up 2.4 percent of admissions in the six years after the storm compared to just .7 percent before it. The post-storm patients were more likely to be unemployed or uninsured, to smoke, and to have depression, anxiety or high cholesterol, resarchers found. A third study found that heart attacks rose sharply in the Messinia area of southwestern Greece since January 2008, the start of that country's financial crisis. Researchers compared medical records of more than 22,000 patients admitted to the General Hospital of Kalamata â¿¿ the only hospital with a cardiology department in the region.

There were 1,084 heart attacks in the four years after the crisis began compared to 841 in the four years before it, even though the population and its demographics remained the same.

Heart attack incidence rose 40 percent among women, who have higher unemployment rates than men and tend to be more responsible for child care â¿¿ a double burden of stress, said the lead researcher, Dr. Emmanouil Makaris.


Marilynn Marchione can be followed at

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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