Anxiety and the progression of cardiovascular disease

The relationship amongst anxiety and heart disease has not been as fully studied as the connection among depression and cardiovascular disease. However, Dr. Una McCann, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, believes the connection is strong.

“It’s my view and my personal clinical experience that anxiety disorders can play a major role in heart disease,” states Dr. McCann. “I believe that a really careful look at anxiety would reveal the ways it can severely impact heart disease, both as a contributing factor and as an obstacle in recovery.”

A normal response to an unexpected heart attack may be much like post-traumatic stress disorder:

  • You’re probable to be stunned by your near-death encounter and incredibly reluctant to do things you used to do.
  • You may continuously relive the life-threatening event, and avoid the event or location connected with the heart attack.
  • Repeating anxious thoughts could hamper your capability to get normal sleep.
  • Your thoughts about what lies ahead may be tremendously negative and cause a drastically foreshortened expectation of the foreseeable future.

The impact of anxiety on the heart.

When a person is anxious, their body responds in ways that can put an additional strain on their heart. The physical signs of anxiety may be particularly damaging among people with existing cardiac disease.

Anxiety may have an association with the following heart disorders and cardiac risk factors:

Rapid heart rate (tachycardia) – In major cases, can disrupt normal heart function and raise the risk of sudden heart attack.

Increased blood pressure – If chronic, can result in coronary disease, weakening of the heart muscle, and cardiac arrest.

Reduced heart rate variability – May lead to higher incidence of death after an acute heart attack.

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