Military Connection: Study Ties PTSD to Premature Aging

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By Debbie Gregory.

None of us want to grow old before our time. Many of us do what we can to slow down the aging process. And that goes beyond just wanting to look good; we also want to feel good. So it is troubling that a new study has found that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients may be at a high risk for premature aging and for medical conditions normally associated with old age.

Writing in the online issue of American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System suggest that there is a link between PTSD and premature aging.

In recent years, public health concerns about PTSD have risen significantly, driven in part by military Veterans returning from conflicts that have been diagnosed with the disorder. PTSD is associated with a number of psychological issues, including chronic depression, anger, insomnia, eating disorders and substance abuse.

Researchers focused on three potential signals of faster-than-normal aging — biological signs like shortened telomeres or markers of inflammation, higher rates of medical conditions linked to advanced age, and early death. Out of 64 potential studies, the researchers identified 22 that were suitable for determining the link between PTSD and the biomarkers and 10 others that could be examined for the condition’s connection to early death.

Although the researchers attempted to combine the findings of several studies, there was still a large amount of variability among the research. This makes it difficult to compare the results.

What this new information reveals is that treatment for PTSD may now need to include anti-aging therapies, not just mental health treatments. PTSD, which is caused by external, traumatic stress, apparently has an effect on a basic biological process such as aging. These studies suggested that PTSD patients may be at higher risk for conditions like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, ulcers and dementia.

PTSD could be due to other risk factors — many of which occur alongside PTSD — such as smoking, higher alcohol use, poor diet, and lack of exercise.

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Military Connection: Study Ties PTSD to Premature Aging: by Debbie Gregory