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Female veterans more at risk for heart disease

New research from the American Heart Association found a link between PTSD and heart health.

TAMPA, Fla. — New research from the American Heart Association shows female veterans are more likely to have heart disease.

Scientists are making connections between lifestyle habits, mental health and other risk factors that make heart disease and stroke more common within the female veteran population. The new research will be presented at the American Heart Association's 2021 Scientific Sessions conference scheduled this weekend from Nov. 13-15.

There are a number of reasons female veterans are more at risk for heart disease.

For starters, they have higher rates of smoking and obesity which are two known causes of heart disease and stroke.

Missed symptoms are another big area of concern because women's heart disease warning signs are a bit more subtle than men. Doctors sometimes just miss the indicators.

Female vets are more likely to face mental health challenges such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression, which can lead to other problems.

"It may be related to some actual changes that occur in the brain and body related to PTSD. Folks with PTSD would have increased rates of stress hormones produced that could adversely impact the heart," said Dr. Sally Haskell with the Veterans Health Administration.

It might be surprising to learn that veterans are more likely to be obese and have diabetes, but researchers say military vets could struggle adapting to a healthy lifestyle without the strict standards required while serving.

Tips from the American Heart Association:

  1. Manage blood pressure
  2. Control cholesterol
  3. Reduce blood sugar
  4. Get active
  5. Eat better
  6. Lose weight
  7. Quit smoking

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