Beth Cohen, MD MAS
Staff Physician, Medical Service, SFVAHCS
Assistant Professor of Medicine, UCSF
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Heart Disease
Dr. Cohen studies the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on physical health, particularly cardiovascular health. Multiple studies of veterans from prior wars have demonstrated that those with PTSD have an increased risk of developing and dying from heart disease. However, the mechanisms responsible for this increased risk are not known. In addition, no studies have examined this topic in female veterans or in OEF/OIF veterans. Dr. Cohen is working on several projects to address these unanswered questions.
Using national VA data on over 300,000 OEF/OIF veterans, Dr. Cohen found that male and female veterans with PTSD had significantly higher rates of several cardiac risk factors, including tobacco use, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, and obesity. This study, which will be published as a brief report in the 2009 JAMA special issue on Human Rights/Violence underscores the importance of this issue in our newest generation of veterans. To determine the mechanisms connecting PTSD and heart disease, Dr. Cohen is establishing the Mind Your Heart Study, a prospective cohort study of veterans with and without PTSD. This study is actively recruiting, with a total goal of 750 participants. Measurements of PTSD, cardiovascular health, and several potential biological, behavioral, and psychosocial mechanisms are obtained at baseline and participants will be followed over time for the development of cardiac events. The ultimate goal of this research is to identify mechanisms that can serve as targets reduce cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality in veterans with PTSD.
To see Dr. Cohen on Pub Med, click here.