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New study finds combat vets face more cardiovascular risks

CHAPEL HILL Besides having faced grave risks inherent in military hostilities, many combat veterans experience a heightened chance of suffering heart and lung damage later in life because of unhealthy personal habits, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study concludes.

The study was presented today (April 29) at the American Heart Association scientific meeting in Washington, D.C. It found combat veterans more likely to be heavy smokers and drinkers than both veterans not directly involved in fighting and non-veterans, according to Anna Johnson, an epidemiology doctoral student at the UNC School of Public Health.

Others involved in the research were Drs. Kathryn Rose and Gerardo Heiss, assistant professor and professor, respectively, of epidemiology at UNC, Dr. Mario Sims, professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and Dr. Janice Williams of LaGrange, Ga.

"Previous studies have shown higher rates of unhealthy behaviors and risk factors among veterans of Vietnam and more recent wars compared to population controls," said Johnson, who led the study. "However, little has been known about combat veterans from earlier conflicts. For that reason, we investigated the association between combat stress and cardiovascular behavioral risk factors among 5,368 black and white men participating in the UNC-directed Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study."

Based on their responses to eight questions about their history of military service and combat exposures, 2,054 men were classified as non-veterans, 2,131 were designated non-combat veterans and 1,183 were listed as combat veterans, she said.

"Those exposed to combat served during the World War II, Korean and Vietnam eras," Johnson said. "Behavioral risk factors include pack-years of smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, low physical activity, obesity (based on body mass index) and large waist circumference," Johnson said. "We found that mil
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Contact: David Williamson
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
29-Apr-2005


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