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Medical Advice: Don't Stress Out

There is more and more evidence building up that our emotional state of mind can affect our chances of developing heart disease down the road, The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay reports.

Of course, feelings of anger and hostility can increase the risk of heart disease. Now, new research from the New York Academy of Medicine indicates that people who suffer from post-traumatic stress caused by events like wars or disasters are also at an increased risk.

The study revealed that Vietnam veterans who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of combat service were six times more likely to have a heart attack than those without PTSD.

The research also showed heart attack rates were even higher for veterans suffering from depression or anxiety in addition to PTSD.

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War was not the only trauma linked to an increased risk of heart disease. The research also looked at people who suffered mental trauma from experiences like urban disasters, child abuse and sexual assault. These findings underline the importance of considering post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues as risk factors for heart disease, too.

Research shows there are other ways that mental illness can damage the heart as well as the mind. New research shows that depression increases the risk of death from heart disease for women.

Women who suffered from heart disease and mild-to-moderate depression were more than twice as likely to die than women than those who weren't depressed. Even women with no heart disease were twice as likely to die from it if they were depressed.

Previous studies have also shown a link between heart disease and depression in women. The American Heart Association recently announced new guidelines for the prevention of heart disease in women that recommend women with cardiovascular disease be evaluated and treated for depression.

Men are at risk, too. Studies have shown depression doubles a man's chance of developing heart disease, and can triple his risk of dying in the year following a heart attack.

There are a number of theories of how mental disorders affect the heart. There is evidence that stress can raise the risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Also, depressed adults tend to weigh more, which is a risk factor for heart disease. One study found that depressed patients woke up more overnight, and it's unknown how less-restful sleep might raise the risk.

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