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Health Tips & Topics

Anxiety and Heart Disease: What’s the Connection?

Anxiety disorders significantly increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease and also raise the odds of suffering a fatal cardiac event, according to new studies.

In a study done at the University in the Netherlands, Annelieke M. Roest, MSc combined the data from 20 different studies done on 250,000 people. After 11 years, researchers found that there was a 26% increased risk of coronary heart disease associated with anxiety. There was also an increased risk of 48% of heart-related death during the followup period. (including adjustments made for known heart disease risk factors).

Another study found that anxiety disorders can be predictive of future heart disease regardless of other risk factors including smoking and high blood pressure. That study was done by Imre Janszky, MD, PhD, of Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

Uncontrolled anxiety can increase the risk of developing heart disease or, worse, a heart attack by more than double. According to John Hopkins medicine, anxiety disorders can be placed in several categories.

These are just a few as they relate to heart disease:

  • Panic disorder can be associated with cardiac disease or mistaken for heart attack. Feelings of extreme agitation and terror are often accompanied by dizziness, chest pains, stomach discomfort, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can follow a shocking or frightening incident or sudden, life-threatening event, such as a violent crime, major accident, or heart attack. A person who has PTSD often has trouble dealing with anything associated with the incident that caused their condition and experiences feelings of jitteriness and detachment.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder occurs when people manage irrational thoughts and worries by performing the same actions over and over. For example, an individual obsessed with perceived cardiovascular symptoms that have been checked and cleared by a physician may compulsively research them or find new ones.