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PTSD amongst young adults linked to higher risk of stroke later in life
Study showed that Young adults who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be more likely to experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or major stroke event by middle age.

According to a research published in Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, 29 percent diagnosed with PTSD, and veterans with PTSD were twice as likely to have a TIA, raising the risk more than other risk factors like diabetes, and sleep apnoea.

"Stroke has a devastating impact on young patients and their families, many of whom struggle to cope with long-term disability, depression and economic loss during their most productive years," said Lindsey Rosman, Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. "Ten to 14% of ischemic strokes occur in adults ages 18 to 45, and we don't really have a good understanding of the risk factors for stroke in this age group."

Researchers analysed medical data from more than one million young and middle-aged veterans enrolled in healthcare services provided by the Veterans Health Administration (mostly males, age 18-60, average age of 30, 2 out of 3 white) and had served in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. None had previously experienced a TIA or stroke.

Results from the 13-year follow-up period shoed that veterans with PTSD were 62 percent more likely to have a stroke and veterans with PTSD were more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking and getting little exercise leading to increased risk of stroke.

"Our findings raise important questions about whether early recognition and successful treatment of PTSD can prevent or decrease the likelihood of developing stroke in those exposed to violence, trauma and severe adversity." Rosman said.

Although the study showed a strong relationship between PTSD and early TIA and stroke, it wasn't designed to prove that PTSD causes either condition. Additionally, because the analysis was conducted in younger veterans, the results may not be generalizable to non-veterans or older adults who may have more conventional stroke risk factors, such as atrial fibrillation and heart failure.

"We need to improve stroke prevention in young adults by developing targeted screening programs and age-appropriate interventions. Addressing mental health issues including PTSD may be an important part of a broader public health initiative to reduce the growing burden of stroke in young people," Rosman said.

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