Anxiety Disorder May Increase Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a psychological disorder characterized by excessive worry about everyday events. People living with it experience a level of discomfort that is out of proportion for the cause of concern. If you have been diagnosed with GAD, you are in good company; over six million people in the United States have it. You also may be at a higher risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.

Patients with stable Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), where the symptoms of chest pain are relieved within 10 minutes with rest and/or medications, and GAD are more likely to have a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or a stroke.

Why are anxiety disorders and cardiovascular disease related? People with anxiety issues are less likely to be taking good care of themselves. They are less likely to be eating or sleeping well, and they are more likely to be smokers. Individuals with anxiety issues are also less likely to be exercising regularly. All of these factors increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease.

blood pressure measurement Stress also plays a role in a person’s risk of developing heart disease, and someone living with GAD is experiencing a higher level of stress than a person who doesn’t have the disorder. As a result, he or she may have higher blood pressure, as well as an increased heart rate. Both of these factors contribute to heart issues.

For study conducted by the San Francisco VA Medical Center, researchers decided to focus on 1,015 participants who had been diagnosed with CAD for over five years. The study subjects underwent psychological testing to determine whether they had GAD.

The results of the study fond that 9.6 of the study subjects who had GAD had a cardiac event, compared with 6.6 of the participants who did not have this psychological issue. GAD can be treated with anti-anxiety medications and psychotherapy. If you suspect that you have an anxiety disorder or are concerned about a loved one, see your family doctor for a referral to a professional who can provide a diagnosis and suggest at treatment plan.