PTSD linked to heart attack, stroke risk in civilian 9/11 responders, study finds

Psychological damage has led to a higher risk for heart attack and stroke among civilian 9/11 rescuers and recovery workers, according to a study to be released Tuesday.

The American Heart Association interviewed more than 6,841 non-firefighter workers and untrained volunteers who were at Ground Zero following the attacks on Sept. 11, and found that PTSD cases were twice as prevalent than among the general population. Heart attacks and strokes among those blue collar crew members with PTSD were 2.35 times higher than the rest of the 9/11 workers, according to the study.

Dr. Alfredo Morabia, the study’s senior author, said the findings are significant because this is the first time PTSD has been determined to be a strong factor for cardiovascular disease.

The World Trade Center-Heart report, which will be published in the American Heart Association’s journal “Circulation” on Tuesday, examines how the attacks affected the cardiovascular health of civilian crews at Ground Zero.

Researchers observed the subjects over a four-year period — from 2012 and 2016 — and found that common heart disease factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass were not associated with the blue collar workers.

Morabia said city and state officials should use the findings to provide help to those civilians and prepare for future incidents.

“PTSD’s association with heart attack and a stroke should be taken into consideration when untrained first responders are sent to respond to catastrophes of different types,” he said in a statement. “Heart attack and stroke should be considered a related disease in World Trade Center first responders and it should be incorporated along with their benefits and care.”