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New Study Shows Link Between PTSD Symptoms and Women’s Cardiovascular and Brain Health

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and Alzheimer’s disease are significant public health concerns, especially for women. A recent study aimed to explore the relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and the cardiovascular and brain health of midlife women, taking into account the influence of the APOEε4 genotype.

In a cross-sectional study conducted between 2016 and 2021, 274 midlife women, aged 45 to 67 years, without a history of CVD, stroke, or dementia, participated. Researchers collected data through questionnaires, physical examinations, blood tests, neuropsychological assessments, carotid ultrasonography, and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Key Findings:

Cardiovascular Health: Women with higher PTSD symptoms had significantly greater carotid atherosclerosis, as indicated by higher carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), an established measure of subclinical CVD.

Brain Health: Among women who carried the APOEε4 genotype (a risk factor for CVD and dementia), higher PTSD symptoms were associated with more significant white matter hyperintensities (WMH) in the brain. WMH is indicative of brain small vessel disease and has links to cognitive decline and dementia.

Cognitive Function: PTSD symptoms were associated with poorer cognitive performance in women who were APOEε4 carriers, particularly in areas of attention, working memory, semantic fluency, perceptual speed, and processing speed.


These findings suggest that PTSD symptoms, even at relatively low levels, are associated with adverse cardiovascular and neurocognitive outcomes in midlife women. The study highlights the vulnerability of women who are carriers of the APOEε4 genotype to these negative effects. Given that PTSD affects around 10% of women during their lifetime, these results emphasize the importance of early intervention and preventive measures to mitigate cardiovascular and neurocognitive risks, particularly in this at-risk population.

Overall, this study provides valuable insights into the relationship between PTSD symptoms and the health of midlife women, emphasizing the need for a better understanding of the impact of trauma on both cardiovascular and brain health.

Source: JAMA Network Open Journal