Stress from disasters, war causes higher heart risks, studies show

Doctors: 'Fight or flight' hormones affect body

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - New studies show that stress from war, natural disasters, and national economic problems can cause higher heart risks.

Researchers have found higher rates of cardiac problems in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, in New Orleans residents six years after Hurricane Katrina, and in Greeks struggling through that country's financial turmoil.

Doctors say that disasters and prolonged stress can raise "fight or flight" hormones that affect blood pressure, blood sugar and other things in ways that make heart trouble more likely.

The largest study involved more than 200,000 veterans from California and Nevada. Those with PTSD were more likely to develop heart risk factors such as high blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.

The studies were discussed Sunday at a cardiology conference in San Francisco.

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