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Living in a warzone is linked with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke among civilians even years after the conflict ends, according to a study published in journal Heart.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine studied associations between armed conflict and the health of civilian adults in low and middle income countries, including Syria, Lebanon, Bosnia, Croatia, Palestine, Colombia and Sudan.

Conflicts had negative health outcomes for civilians, including increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, increased blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as increased alcohol and tobacco use. Beyond the immediate impacts of conflict, such as blast injuries, infectious diseases or malnutrition, longer-lasting health risks to civilians included disruptions to healthcare services which put them at greater risk of heart disease in the medium to long term.

“As conflicts are becoming increasingly protracted, this brings new challenges for measuring the impact on public health. There is an urgent need…to help governments and health agencies reduce the burden of heart disease among civilians during and in the months and years following wars,” study author of Imperial School of Public Health Dr Mohammed Jawad said.