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9/11 Stress Linked to Cardiovascular Ailments

High levels of acute stress increased long-term risk of hypertension and other heart problems

MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Patients who experienced high levels of acute stress after the 9/11 terrorist attacks may be at increased risk of subsequent physician-diagnosed cardiovascular ailments, according to a study published in the January issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

E. Alison Holman, Ph.D., of the University of California-Irvine, and colleagues studied 2,592 adults who completed a health survey before Sept. 11, 2001, and a Web-based assessment of acute stress nine to 14 days after the 9/11 attacks. The investigators conducted follow-up surveys of 1,923 subjects after one year, 1,576 subjects after two years, and 1,950 subjects after three years.

After adjusting for factors such as pre-9/11 cardiovascular and mental health status, the researchers found that acute stress responses to the 9/11 attacks were associated with a 53 percent increased incidence of subsequent cardiovascular ailments. They also found that subjects who reported high levels of acute stress immediately after the attacks had an increased incidence of physician-diagnosed hypertension and heart problems after two years (rate ratios, 1.75 and 3.12, respectively) and that subjects who reported ongoing stress about terrorism had an increased risk of physician-diagnosed heart problems after two and three years (rate ratios, 4.67 and 3.22, respectively).

"These findings highlight the possibility that acute stress reactions may indicate subsequent vulnerability to potentially serious health problems," the authors conclude.

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