The National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder has brought the medical community's attention to two recent studies showing a relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and aging in their February newsletter. The studies are summarized on the Medical Xpress website, which describes significant findings by Drs. Mark Miller and Erika Wolf of Boston University associating cellular aging and metabolic syndrome with PTSD.
The first study looked at methylation of each participant's cells, or the adding on of a "methyl group" molecule. As described in the article, trends in methylation can indicate chronological age. Researchers compared methylation "patterns" with signs of changes merely simulating older age in participants' DNA. They found that participants with PTSD were more likely to have older-looking DNA without the indicators of actual older age in their methylation patterns.
The second study examined associations between PTSD and metabolic syndrome – "a constellation of symptoms including obesity, high blood pressure, abnormal blood lipids, and high blood sugar" – and between metabolic syndrome and cortical shrinkage. The study "found that PTSD was directly associated with metabolic syndrome, and that metabolic syndrome was strongly associated with reduced cortical thickness."
As one Dr. Miller points out, the findings implicate a strong relationship between physical and psychological deterioration associated with PTSD. And, he says, this means that "clinicians may need to expand their repertoire of treatments for PTSD to target sleep, diet, and exercise."