Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is unfortunately a very common mental health disorder. People can develop flashbacks, insomnia, anxiety, etc after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event. If these feelings last more than a few months, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder1 and it may be time to seek help. This can be devastating for a functional and productive life. To make matters worse, in a recent study published in the journal Stroke2 in November 2019, PTSD was found to increase the risk of ischemic stroke and transient ischemic attack in young and middle-aged adults.
Ischemic stroke becomes more common as you age. Above the ages of 60-65 are thought to be at higher risk. Other risk factors3 include hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and heart arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation, according to Northwestern Medicine. It is relatively uncommon to develop ischemic strokes at ages younger than 60 years. However, they do happen. And now we see that post-traumatic stress disorder is another potential risk factor in young and middle-aged adults.
This study in the journal Stroke2 reveals how damaging PTSD can be. It really is a serious public health problem. It studied approximately one million veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan over thirteen years. It found a link between PTSD and stroke, a greater prevalence in men, and that vets with PTSD were more likely than vets without PTSD to have unhealthy habits. These unhealthy habits, such as smoking and inactivity, are stroke risk factors. This association found in this study creates an opportunity to improve stroke prevention in young adults. More research needs to be done to determine the best method of screening and treatment, but it is clear that internal medicine doctors should potentially screen for PTSD and psychiatrists should screen for stroke risk factors and unhealthy life habits in their PTSD patients. This study creates the possibility of mitigating the risk of stroke in young adults by identifying and treating PTSD early on in the course. Will a comprehensive stroke prevention program now include mental health evaluations for PTSD? Maybe it should.
In addition to the increased risk of stroke risk factors, post-traumatic stress disorder may have other mechanisms of contributing to increased stroke risk in young adults. One of the author’s of the study Dr. Lindsey Rosman out of the University of North Carolina speculates that PTSD may lead to “chronic inflammation, platelet activation and aggregation, and neuroendocrine dysregulation2,” which could subsequently increase risk of ischemic stroke and transient ischemic attack in young adults, especially with prolonged exposure. Stress in general is also known to exacerbate pre-existing high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and substance abuse. In addition, it is thought that stress increases the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which cause injury to arteries and lead to clot formation. All of these will increase the risk of ischemic stroke.
Ketamine has been shown to be helpful for the treatment of PTSD, refractory depression, and suicidal thoughts. According to a review article in 20194, ketamine showed near-complete resolution of PTSD symptoms over the short term and improvement is relatively immediate while lasting longer than the half-life of ketamine itself. According to psychiatryadvisor.com5, several studies have shown ketamine’s benefits in the acute treatment of PTSD. One study showed that ketamine infusions rapidly and significantly reduced PTSD symptoms compared to midazolam. There is mounting evidence that ketamine infusions can help with the acute treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder but unfortunately are underutilized. There is plenty of evidence that ketamine should be considered in conjunction with psychotherapy and discussions with your healthcare provider.
Post-traumatic stress disorder affects not only your mind and emotions but also your body. The neurovascular biological responses6 to stress can subsequently cause a cascade of events that increase risk of ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack in young and middle-aged adults. At StrIVeMD Wellness & Ketamine, we offer ketamine infusions as well as intravenous vitamin therapy. We will closely monitor guidelines and directions from the state of Illinois and are offering infusions to our patients. If you or someone has a mental health disease that is worsening, please call your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation for ketamine therapy in the Chicago area, please feel free to email us at email@example.com.
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