Fact or Myth: Does Anxiety Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease?

This is a FACT.

Anxiety and stress are becoming more and more commonplace in our hectic modern world as are related conditions such as depression, panic and severe mental disorders.

Some anxiety is a natural and normal response to a specific situation going on in your life – whether you get butterflies in your stomach before an important performance review or experience a surge of panic when your tire blows on your way to an interview. This type of anxiety is considered acute. It may manifest as a couple of sleepless nights, or fear and nervousness that spike your heart rate.

The two main hormones that surge through your body when you experience acute anxiety are epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol. These are “fight or flight” hormones your body produces and releases to prepare you for an immediate and necessary physical or mental response.

Acute anxiety only affects you temporarily, while chronic anxiety affects you every day for an extended period of time. symptoms of anxiety

Chronic anxiety causes an imbalance of these hormones because your body is constantly – and unnaturally – prepared for “danger,” whether it is real or imagined.

Chronic stress wears you down physically because you are not meant to live in a constant, long-term state of distress. Scientists have recognized the dangers of the symptoms of anxiety for decades and attribute more diseases and disorders to this slow, steady, underestimated killer every year.

How can you tell if the symptoms of anxiety you feel is ongoing and affecting your daily life?

Different Signs of Chronic Anxiety

  • Constant, unrelieved worry or fear.
  • Fear of embarrassment or humiliation.
  • Panic attacks, irritability, inability to focus, or unusual exhaustion.
  • Avoiding places, people or objects out of irrational fear.
  • Nightmares or unrelenting dwelling on a past traumatic event.

Chronic Anxiety Found to Contribute to Heart Events

During a study conducted by Elisabeth J. Martens, Ph.D., of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, 1,000 patients with stable heart disease were evaluated over six years and 74% of those participants who experienced more heart events also suffered from anxiety disorder.

Part of the increase in stroke and heart attack is now being clearly attributed to a higher coagulating or “clotting” response in patients who suffer from symptoms of anxiety.

Franziska Geiser (Clinic and Policlinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy) and Ursula Harbrecht (Institute of Experimental Haematology and Transfusion Medicine) are among the first to study and confirm increased blood clotting in relation to anxiety. It is not only a bio-marker that could save lives in the future but test results show it is also an imbalance that can be corrected with treatment for anxiety.

Over 68,000 adults over age 35 participated in England’s National Health Survey, led by Tom C. Russ, MD, University of Edinburgh, U.K. and they examined the link between stress and a shorter life span. Their conclusion was that all stress has a negative physiological impact on your immediate and long-term health.

Accounting for poor lifestyle choices such as excessive alcohol, smoking, and poor diet and exercise, Dr. Russ and his team found that people experiencing stress of any kind increased their mortality rate in comparison to those who had no stress over ten years.

By the Numbers: Stress Takes Years Off Your Life

  • Those with mild “everyday” stress are 29% more likely to die.
  • Those with moderate stress are 43% more likely to die.
  • Those with constant, severe stress are 94% more likely to die.

Russ explained, “It’s just a message that we need to take these things (anxiety) more seriously.”

Dr. Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, is a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Atlanta’s Emory University. She was not involved in the U.K. research but also studies the connection between heart disease and anxiety disorders.

After reviewing the U.K. findings, she stated, “Clearly there is evidence that depression is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and total mortality as well. This study is one of many that have found this type of association.” Dr. Vaccarino recommends taking steps to minimize stress and anxiety and protect your total body health before you get sick.

Top Five Natural Methods for Relieving the Symptoms of Anxiety

    1. Breathe deeply and slowly for several minutes.
    2. Exercise regularly to increase “happy hormones,” or endorphins.
    3. Practice a soothing ritual – such as drinking a cup of soothing herbal tea or meditation.
    4. Connect with someone who inspires positive feelings.
    5. Evaluate what is causing the anxiety and limit or remove it.

If stress is affecting the quality of your daily life, don’t hesitate to ask for help. 40 million people suffer from anxiety disorders…only 1/3 of them seek treatment.

Long-term unrelenting symptoms of anxiety can lead to depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, a sense of panic and even phobias. If you feel overwhelmed, afraid or worried – you are not alone. Don’t wait until your physical health begins to deteriorate.

Confront and eliminate the anxiety in your life now so you can live every moment to the fullest.