2008 July 07 Monday
Iraq Veterans Will Get More Heart Disease

The tens or hundreds of thousands of cases of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) coming home from Iraq are going to die sooner than they otherwise would have.

DANVILLE, PA – Vietnam veterans who experienced posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were twice as likely to die from heart disease as veterans without PTSD, a new Geisinger study finds.

In a study published in the July issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, Geisinger Senior Investigator Joseph Boscarino, PhD, MPH examined the prevalence of heart disease, PTSD and other problems in more than 4,000 Vietnam veterans.

The more severe the PTSD diagnosis, the greater the likelihood of death from heart disease, the study showed.

Vietnam veterans with PTSD--like chronic smokers—are at higher risk of early death from heart disease, Dr. Boscarino concluded. Boscarino equated PTSD to smoking two to three packs of cigarettes per day for more than 20 years.

PTSD causes the body to release stress hormones, which leads to the inflammation and damage to the arteries and cardiovascular system damage. Stress hormones also tend to reduce the amount of inflammation-reducing cortisol in the body—though researchers aren't sure why.

Plus, the concussions from IED blasts cause lasting brain damage. The costs of the war in Iraq far exceed the $3 billion per week that the US government spends on it now. The war does not help to increase US security. It drains us.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 July 07 11:03 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs

Greg said at July 8, 2008 3:21 AM:

Was the toppling of Saddam Hussein worth it? Polls that I have seen say no. But has it
been pointed out what the potential benefits of a victory in Iraq would be? I think we
are focusing in on the costs, but not considering the benefits.

The costs are blood and treasure and morality. The benefits are the same, in terms of lives
saved, treasure saved and morality unimpared.

If the Iraq operation is sucessful, it could prevent a bigger war. That will save lives.
If more lives are saved than lost, the the war will have been worth it.

The cost of oil at today's prices will give us an oil bill of 1 trillion dollars, if the
price holds up. Recently, I heard on the news that Iraq is planning to expand production
significantly. One estimate years ago placed the potential of Iraqi oil production on
a level that would rival Saudi Arabia. If this additional supply can knock down the price
of oil, it could save trillions of dollars to our oil bill. In that case, it would have
been a good investment.

I realize the moral objections to "blood for oil". But that too can be justified. We need
oil to stay alive. If oil is banned worldwide right now, it would be a death sentence for
millions upon millions of people. Oil keeps our machines running, and we are dependent
upon our machines to keep us alive.

Another moral objection may be in terms of a risk to the republic being lost to an empire.
I would risk an empire for a victory. If what we have now risks an empire, then the risk
is worth it. That's because the risk of the downside is much worse in my opinion. The
downside is the collapse of the economy, war, and despotism.

Ned said at July 8, 2008 5:36 AM:

From the start of the Iraqi war in 2003 to the end of last year, Iraqi oil production was greatly reduced. Around the end of last year, it finally exceeded pre-war (2003) levels.

If the billions (trillions?) of dollars spent on this foolish war had been used to purchase oil, develop domestic reserves (Alaska, off-shore, outer continental shelf) or develop alternative energy sources, we would be a lot better off.

sizzler said at July 8, 2008 6:23 AM:

PTSD causes the body to release stress hormones, which leads to the inflammation and damage to the arteries and cardiovascular system damage. Stress hormones also tend to reduce the amount of inflammation-reducing cortisol in the body—though researchers aren't sure why.


Is this right? Cortisol IS a stress hormone, which like adrenalin, is secreted during the fight-or-flight response. It has also been implicated in artheroslerosis, high blood pressure, and fat storage.

One of the negative effects reported is:

- Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences


I have never heard of cortisol providing inflammation-reducing effects. To the contrary, it promotes inflammation.

Wolf-Dog said at July 8, 2008 10:42 AM:

Sizzler: Excess cortisol does cause all the diseases you mentioned, but only when it is above normal levels. But when cortisol levels drop below normal levels, then the thyroid functions fail because even though there is enough thyroid hormone T4, it is no longer converted to T3. And also, when the cortisol drops far below normal levels, then there are many more symptoms that can lead to death if cortisol is not restored.

But BOTH the excess and shortage of cortisol can SIMULTANEOUSLY occur when soldiers are suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome. When suffering, fear, tension, etc, continue for a long time, then the adrenal glands are eventually damaged because of these are overworked. Then, when the adrenal glands are depleted and fatigued, they start working incorrectly, by secreting either too much cortisol during certain hours of the day, and later too little cortisol during later hours, during the same day. This would the the worst of the two worlds for the patient. Excess cortisol does damage the region of the brain that contains memory cells, especially verbal memory, but once the cortisol damage is corrected by medication, this kind of brain cells would actually restore themselves considerably, and memory can be regained. However, the heart problems, etc, are probably irreversible.

Cortisol TEMPORARILY stops inflammation by suppressing the immune system, and this is why it can sometimes be prescribed even to allergy patients. However, prolonged use of excessive cortisol medication would suppress the immune system too much, and then this would later cause more inflammation as you said, and this is why before surgery, the patients are asked if they are taking any cortisol etc, since this can lead to life-threatening infections after surgery (in this case more antibiotics might be prescribed.) This is why the Hydrocortisone medication is regulated and it is feared by many doctors. However, paradoxically, by prescribing very light amounts of hydrocortisone to patients who are suffering from adrenal failure that leads to both excess and shortage of cortisol, the levels of cortisol would be regulated since this gives relief to the adrenal glands, giving them time to recuperate, so that they do not emit excess of cortisol or too little cortisol. In this case, there is no danger of suppressing the immune system due to the very low dosage.

averros said at July 8, 2008 12:01 PM:

> The tens or hundreds of thousands of cases of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) coming home from Iraq are
> going to die sooner than they otherwise would have.

My cynical side says: "that's the survival of the fittest in action". "Fittest" being least dumb.

One has to be a terminal idiot to enlist in the Army.

Oh... and anyone saying the war has benefits is welcome to read Frederic Bastiat, for this assertion is merely the conflation of two well-known logical fallacies: "what is seen and what is not seen" and "broken window".

birch barlow said at July 8, 2008 12:42 PM:

Yes, PTSD is a nasty disorder. I did not even consider that cost of Iraq. Increased risk of heart disease is possibly amongst the least of the effects of PTSD. The average person with PTSD also has substantially lower productivity and income than would be expected based on his/her pre-PTSD condition. This means less tax revenue, more incompetent/problematic workers, and just a worse economy in general.

Another effect of PTSD is to greatly increase the risk of alcohol and drug abuse and addiction. [getting somewhat OT] I think part of the solution here for both PTSD victims and the general population is to emphasize that alcohol/drug abuse is NOT an issue of personal choice or morality. This will have many positive effects: it will increase the drive to find biomedical (i.e., actually effective) solutions to substance abuse, reduce the drive to continue/expand the quixotic war on drugs, and even cut down on the family trauma caused by substance abuse (largely driven by the totalitarian substance abuse=bad character way of thinking). Let me put it this way: is it worth putting away a substance abuser who has been cast out of his family/employer/society who has stolen alcohol, cough medicine, or prescription drugs for 16 months on petty theft with a prior? In states like California, we're talking something $100,000 a year to keep such a person behind bars. Same goes for a pot dealer or a doctor too liberal about prescribing Vic0din. People like the Tritter character from House MD are all too real and all too destructive. What an enormous waste of lives and tax dollars (and this goes doubly for PTSD victims who have already gone through hell).

Randall Parker said at July 8, 2008 5:55 PM:


Invasion of Iraq did not reduce the risk of some bigger war. What country in the Middle East is going to start a war with the United States? None of them.

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