PTSD’s Impact on Women’s Cardiovascular and Neurological Health Explored in New Study

by Ella

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition with repercussions that may extend beyond the realms of the mind, particularly for women, according to recent research. While PTSD is traditionally associated with severe anxiety, nightmares, and flashbacks, this study delves into its potential consequences on women’s cardiovascular and neurological well-being.


Women, it appears, are twice as susceptible to PTSD as men, a concerning statistic given the prevalence of trauma-inducing events in the world today. Studies suggest that nearly all women in the United States will experience at least one major traumatic event in their lifetimes.


The ramifications of PTSD, however, might reach far beyond psychological distress. Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease (AD), are among the leading causes of female mortality globally. In the United States, CVD ranks as the primary cause of death among women, with AD occupying the fourth spot.


The prevalence of these conditions goes beyond the risk of mortality, affecting an estimated 45% of American women during their lifetimes. Recognizing the connections between PTSD and CVD/AD can provide invaluable insights for healthcare professionals and policymakers striving to enhance women’s overall health.


Unfortunately, prior research has predominantly focused on the links between PTSD and health in men, leaving a significant knowledge gap, particularly for midlife women. The midlife period in women is a critical juncture, marked by factors like menopause, which is associated with hormonal changes, increased vascular risk, and the re-emergence of past mental traumas, all of which coincide with decreased memory function. This period also precedes the onset of clinical CVD and aligns with the highest risk of AD development.

Hence, the need for research exploring the connections between cardiovascular and neurological health in midlife women and the potential influence of PTSD on these conditions is crucial. Such investigations could unveil novel therapies to mitigate the risks associated with these life-threatening conditions.

Study Details:

The study in question delved into the associations between PTSD symptoms and key health indicators such as carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), white matter hyperintensity (WMH), and volume (WMHV), while also evaluating cognition and memory in response to varying PTSD intensities.

The research adhered to the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) guidelines for cross-sectional studies. The study cohort, known as ‘MsBrain,’ consisted of women aged 45 to 67, who volunteered for the brain health and menopause study in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, between 2017 and 2020.

Exclusion criteria comprised pregnancy, bilateral oophorectomy or hysterectomy, prior history of stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or cerebrovascular accidents, as well as dementia, cancer, substance abuse, or hormone modulator use.

Of the 664 women screened, 274 met the inclusion criteria and underwent the study’s procedures. PTSD symptoms were assessed using the Civilian Version of the PTSD Checklist (PCL-C), where higher scores indicated greater PTSD severity, with scores ≥30 indicating clinical PTSD.

Carotid IMT was measured using ultrasonography, evaluating four locations from the left and right carotid arteries. Brain white matter (WMH and WMHV) was assessed through MRI scans. Cognitive health was examined via in-person neuropsychological evaluations, and anthropometric measurements, sociodemographic variables, and biochemical assays were also conducted.

Study Findings:

The study’s data analysis unveiled a significant connection between PTSD, cardiovascular, and neurological risks in midlife women in the United States. Higher PTSD symptom severity correlated with increased carotid atherosclerosis, particularly in women carrying the APOEε4 allele, which is associated with a higher dementia risk in both genders.

Furthermore, in APOEε4 carriers, PTSD symptoms were linked to diminished cognitive performance and increased WMHV, notably in regions like the frontal lobe. The APOEε4 allele was identified as a significant contributor to adverse outcomes from prior traumatic experiences in women, placing them at elevated risk.

In conclusion, this study sheds light on the link between traumatic experiences and the heightened risk of neurological and cardiovascular conditions, especially during the crucial midlife period in women. The research encompassed a comprehensive range of assessments, emphasizing that more severe PTSD symptoms could lead to increased brain damage, compromised global cognitive function, and heightened carotid atherosclerosis, with APOEε4 carriers facing the greatest risk.


You May Also Like

Womenhealthdomain is a professional women's health portal website, the main columns include women's mental health, reproductive health, healthy diet, beauty, health status, knowledge and news.

【Contact us: [email protected]

[email protected]

Call: 18066312111

© 2023 Copyright