Hypertension in Vietnam Veterans

Recent studies, including a report on recommendations by the National Academies of Science for Veterans and Agent Orange, are showing a link between service-related exposure to herbicides and high blood pressure in Veterans who served in Vietnam between 1965 and 1973.

The study included a survey related to herbicidal exposure, asking Veterans whether they had ever been diagnosed with hypertension by their doctor, and about health behaviors such as smoking and alcohol use.  Self-reported hypertension was indicated at 81.6% for those who distributed or maintained herbicides in Vietnam, 77.4% for those who sprayed herbicides and served in the Vietnam War but never in Southeast Asia (non-Vietnam Veterans), 72.2% for those who served in Vietnam but did not spray herbicides, and 64.4% for those who did not spray herbicides and were non-Vietnam Veterans.

Those Veterans who were herbicide sprayers while in Vietnam were estimated to be at 1.74 times higher risk than non-sprayers, while the odds of hypertension among those who served in Vietnam were 1.26 times higher among non-Vietnam Veterans.

The result of these studies is that the VA is now considering adding hypertension as a presumptive service condition for Vietnam Veterans.  To learn more about these studies, visit the VA website.

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TIME TO HEAL

I was recently talking with a friend about PTSD and he asked a great question: How do you know when healing begins?  We were talking about trying different treatments to help us cope with PTSD, and how sometimes it can be so frustrating because nothing seems to help.  When I mentioned that healing takes time, he responded with his question.  It really got me thinking.

I finally answered him by pointing out that we probably don’t know when healing starts, as we can’t see when healing begins with a physical wound either.  Healing starts at a cellular level and it may take days before we really know that the body is beginning to repair itself.  With a wound to the psyche, we also can’t see the healing begin.  I believe one of the problems with trying different treatments is that we don’t allow enough time to see if they are really working before we just give up.  Those of us who have PTSD want to get past the pain and get on with life.  But that’s true of people with physical wounds too.

Healing takes time, it’s a long process.  A broken bone can take over a year to knit back together.  Torn muscles and tendons may take even longer.  Why would we think a tear to the psyche would not require as long to heal?

The next time you try a new treatment for PTSD, give it some extra time to see if it’s actually working.  You may be pleasantly surprised!

LEARNING ABOUT COMMUNITY RESOURCES

I’m all in favor of utilizing whatever community resources are available in the fight to cope with PTSD.  Too often, we either can’t afford, or we aren’t willing to tap into resources that might be helpful. One of my favorite sites is: www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/cope/index.asp.   The attraction is that it is a self-help site where you can work on your problems at your own pace.  There are modules on anger management, anxiety, hypervigilance, and many other topics related to PTSD that will help you assess where you are and where you want to be.  The nice thing is that so many of these sites are anonymous and free!  You can’t get much better than that for a treatment option!

There are other options too, such as the National Institute of Mental Health: www.nimh.nih.gov/.  And, don’t be afraid to check out local counseling centers or talk with your doctor about antidepressant medications and other medications used to treat the disorder.

There are a lot of resources out there to help if you’re struggling with PTSD.  Don’t be afraid to try them.  It’s important to find the resource that will help you move forward.   If one doesn’t work for you, don’t give up.  Try another, and another, if it’s necessary.  Coping with your PTSD means taking control of your life again.  Don’t let PTSD manage you!

PTSD: NATURES EDGE

I tend to think of PTSD as a normal response to an abnormal situation.  If my perception is that something is extremely dangerous, then it’s natural to want to keep it from happening again.  In fact, my very survival may depend on being on my toes watching for similar situations.   Perhaps it’s even nature’s way of ensuring survival of the species.

Consider if you will, if you’re mauled by a bear, isn’t it likely you’ll be extra careful about getting too close to where bears live from that point on?  It certainly seems that would be the smart thing to do.   Isn’t it normal to want to make sure it doesn’t happen again?  We spend a good amount of time trying to avoid pain, whether it is emotional or physical.  In that way, PTSD may help prevent us from going through a second, similar experience.

I don’t want to have PTSD; it’s a total pain in the neck.  But by the same token, maybe the up-side of it is that it’s less likely I’ll have to go through a similar situation.  Perhaps PTSD is nature’s way of protecting me.  It’s something to think about.