06/21/2012 05:32 pm ET

Heart Attack Survivors May Also Face PTSD Risk: Study

People who have gone through experiences like rape, assault, abuse and even war are at a higher risk of developing post-traumatic disorder (PTSD) -- and now, a new review of studies shows that one in eight people who've survived a heart attack experience symptoms of the anxiety disorder as well.

In fact, about 4 percent of all heart attack survivors meet the criteria necessary for a PTSD diagnosis, Columbia University Medical Center researchers found.

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder affect everyday life, and include flashbacks to the traumatic event, nightmares, trouble concentrating or feeling hyper-aware, sleeping problems, detachment and extreme avoidance of anything that's a reminder of the traumatic event.

Researchers also found that people who've had heart attacks who have PTSD are also at a doubled risk of dying in the next one to three years, or having another cardiac event.

The PLoS ONE study included data from 2,383 people who have acute coronary syndrome, which is when blood flow is reduced to the heart.

"Given that some 1.4 million ACS [acute-coronary syndrome] patients are discharged from U.S. hospitals each year, our results suggest that 168,000 patients will develop clinically significant PTSD symptoms. That is quite substantial," study researcher Donald Edmondson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia, said in a statement.

"However, there is abundant evidence that psychological disorders in heart patients are underrecognized and undertreated. In fact, underdiagnosis may be even more pronounced in cardiac practices than in other types of medical practices," he added.