Faculty Articles

Cardiovascular Risks in Relation to Posttraumatic Stress Severity among Young Trauma-Exposed Women

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Affective Disorders



First Page




Last Page



BACKGROUND: Posttraumatic stress is associated with elevated risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Relatively little research, particularly among women, has documented mechanisms by which PTSD might confer CVD risk during early adulthood. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether the number and relative levels of CVD risk factors are associated with posttraumatic stress symptom severity among young, trauma-exposed women.

METHODS: Participants were premenopausal women ages 19-49 with varying levels of posttraumatic stress and no history of chronic medical illness (n = 54), and were recruited from mental health clinics and the general community. Posttraumatic stress severity was assessed with a structured clinical interview (Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale). The CVD risk factors assessed were lipids (total cholesterol, triglycerides, high- and low-density lipoproteins), resting blood pressure (BP), body mass index (BMI), no exercise in typical week, and cigarette smoking.

RESULTS: Posttraumatic stress severity was associated with lower high-density lipoprotein levels and higher triglycerides, greater systolic and diastolic BP, greater BMI, and a greater number of total CVD risk factors.

LIMITATIONS: The main limitation is the limited number of participants who displayed clinical levels on some of the CVD risk factors (e.g., BP). Nonetheless, most participants exhibited more than one CVD risk factor, indicating the potential for many of the women in this relatively young sample to progress toward greater risk later in life.

CONCLUSIONS: The present results support the contention that, in the absence of medical illness, posttraumatic stress symptom severity among young women is associated with several CVD risk factors early in life.



PubMed ID


Peer Reviewed

Find in your library