The link between Anxiety Disorder and heart health has been proven in two major studies over the last year.
Anxiety Disorder can be just as important as other factors, such as high cholesterol, in determining whether you get heart disease or not.
Previous studies have shown that mental stress and depression have harmful effects on the heart and blood vessels. But until this year there has been little information on the corrosive effects of Anxiety Disorder on the heart or the benefits of relieving Anxiety over time.
The two studies, both published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, each found that having an Anxiety Disorder almost doubles your chance of a heart attack. Other studies have found that women with Anxiety are more prone than men to both suffer from heart disease and to have negative effects from Anxiety after a heart attack.
Worrying about your health can make it worse
James L. Januzzi, cardiologist and co-author of one of the studies, said that they provide,
… further insight into the complex connections between the brain and heart. [C]ardiologists have traditionally focused their therapeutic efforts on factors known to influence long-term outcome in coronary disease, such as making sure to aggressively lower LDL cholesterol. [W]e may need to consider more thoroughly evaluating patients with mood disorders such as anxiety, as treatment may very well reduce the risk of heart disease.
Januzzi’s study found that worrying about your health is apt to make your health worse. Highly anxious persons with heart disease face double the risk of a heart attack or death than those with a more tranquil view of their medical condition. Individuals who learn to cope and find internal calm markedly reduced their risk. Individuals whose Anxiety increased over time were in greatest peril.
The study, published on May 27, 2007, also found that cardiologists who spent more time with patients established a caring relationship that reduced anxieties that could shorten a patient’s life. Charles M. Blatt, the other co-author, said, “My hunch is that for the majority of patients, the greatest anxiety-reducing effect comes from having a good relationship with a doctor.”
Anxiety is a major factor in the prediction of heart disease
The other study was directed by Biing-Jiun Shen of the University of Southern California, and was published on January 15, 2008.
It found that chronic Anxiety leads men to have a 30-40 percent greater chance of heart disease, not even accounting for any other risk factors. Shen said,
There is an independent contribution of anxiety that can predict the onset of a heart attack among healthy older men. The relationship between anxiety and heart attack cannot be explained by depression, hostility or type A personality. It is something that doctors can look out for.
Shen’s study did not include women. The results of other earlier studies suggest that there is a high chance for the effect of Anxiety on women to be the same.
Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a cardiology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said,
An important finding of this study is that anxiety not only represents an independent risk factor for heart attack but may also explain the associations between heart attack risk with other psychosocial risk factors.
Fonarow said that an exaggerated response to acute and chronic stress in individuals with Anxiety may trigger a number of factors that increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease and being stricken by a heart attack. He said,
Highly anxious individuals should be aware they may face an increased risk of a heart attack and take proactive steps under physician supervision to control those cardiovascular risk factors which are modifiable including blood pressure, lipid levels, activity level and weight.
What do you think?
Doctors and scientists have long known that major depression and bipolar disorder can be contributing factors to getting heart disease. These studies show the same sort of risk factor in Anxiety Disorders. It’s just one more reason why you should not delay seeing a mental health professional about you Anxiety!
- Do you know somebody who has Anxiety and heart disease? What is their experience?
- Do you think that a good relationship with a cardiologist can help?
- Does this article produce even more anxiety, or does it make you want to have your Anxiety treated?
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Resources used in this post:
Levin, Aaron. (2003, August 6). Anxiety Hits Women Harder After Heart Attack. Retrieved July 22, 2008 from Center for the Advancement of Health Web site: http://www.cfah.org/hbns/news/anxiety08-06-03.cfm
Nauert, Rick. (2007, May 15). Anxiety is Bad for Your Health. Retrieved July 1, 2008 from Psych Central Web site: http://psychcentral.com/news/2007/05/15/anxiety-is-bad-for-your-health/828.html
Reinberg, Steven. (2008, January 8). Anxiety Raises Heart Attack Risk. Retrieved July 22, 2008 from MentalHelp.net Web site: http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=news&id=107286&cn=1
A Link Between Anxiety and Heart Attacks, Time magazine, January 8, 2008
Anxiety Raises Heart Attack Risk, MedicineNet, January 8, 2008
Don’t Stress: Anxiety Can Hurt Your Heart, MSNBC, January 7, 2008