The Effects of Cognitive Behavioral Healthy Lifestyle Intervention for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Principal Investigator/Project Director

Jeffrey Kibler

Colleges / Centers

College of Psychology


National Institutes of Health

Start Date



Considerable research has indicated strong associations between posttraumatic stress and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) tend to show patterns of elevated CVD risk earlier in life than in the general population. The need for developing effective interventions for CVD risk-reduction in PTSD is increasingly evident. In comparison to the cumulative evidence concerning elevated CVD risk in PTSD, relatively little research has addressed CVD risk reduction in this population. Adjunctive treatments, such as health behavior interventions, may be necessary as supplements to traditional psychotherapy for PTSD in order to reduce CVD risks. The objective of the proposed project is to examine the effects of a healthy lifestyle intervention that addresses multiple CVD-related heath behaviors among civilian adults across genders (ages 18+), who evidence PTSD and CVD risk at baseline. We will assess the intervention impact on both subjective and objective indices of health behaviors, cardiovascular risks and CVD markers over a one-year timeframe. The healthy lifestyle intervention addresses unique aspects of PTSD symptom presentation that serve as barriers to healthy behaviors (e.g., avoidance of physiological arousal/activation, viewing extra body weight as protection against abuse, nightmares/sleep disruption, and cognitive responses to stress), while encouraging healthy lifestyle changes. The primary goal of the present study is to examine whether, compared to a usual care psychotherapy control condition, utilizing the healthy lifestyle intervention as an adjunct to psychotherapy will result in significantly reduced CVD risks and improved CVD markers among civilian adults with PTSD and elevated CVD risks. Therefore, participants will be randomly assigned to either a usual care psychotherapy-only control condition or a usual care psychotherapy plus healthy lifestyle intervention condition. Outcomes will be assessed at post-intervention (12 weeks), as well as 6- month and 12-month time points for follow-up evaluation.

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