Women with symptoms of post-traumatic stress have poorer cardiovascular and neurocognitive health.
- Post-traumatic stress manifests itself as sleep disturbances, irritability, anxiety attacks, difficulty concentrating or even distress.
- Greater post-traumatic stress symptoms have been associated with higher carotid atherosclerosis in women.
- In participants carrying APOEε4, they were linked to greater brain small vessel disease and poorer cognitive performance.
“The implications of post-traumatic stress disorder on the cardiovascular and brain health of women are poorly understood,” reported researchers from the University of Pittsburgh (United States). Thus, they decided to conduct a study, the results of which were published in the journal JAMA Network Open.
Post-traumatic stress: 274 women carried out numerous examinations
The goal of scientists? To assess whether symptoms of posttraumatic stress (i.e., sleep disturbances, irritability, anxiety attacks, difficulty concentrating, distress) in women are associated with intimal thickness of the carotid artery, an indicator of carotid atherosclerosis, brain white matter hyperintensity volume, an indicator of cerebral small vessel disease, and cognitive performance. The modifying role of the APOEε4 genotype was also tested.
For the purposes of the work, they recruited 274 women, aged 45 to 67, who had no history of cardiovascular disease, stroke or dementia. On the other hand, they suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Participants had to complete a questionnaire and undergo phlebotomy, neuropsychological tests, carotid ultrasound examination and brain magnetic resonance imaging.
Poorer cognitive performance in APOE ε4 carriers
According to the results, a link was observed between higher post-traumatic stress symptoms and carotid intimal thickness. Among volunteers with the APOEε4 genotype, those with greater post-traumatic stress symptoms had greater brain white matter hyperintensities, an indicator of cerebral small vessel disease, as well as poorer cognition, particularly attention and working memory, semantic fluency, speed of perception and processing.
“Our results indicate an at-risk population that may warrant early intervention and prevention efforts to reduce cardiovascular and neurocognitive risk in midlife and beyond,” concluded the authors in a statement.