Is worry really bad for the heart?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Anxiety and heart disease linked

Research published in the journal BMJ Open highlights how people who are well but worry about being sick may be setting themselves up for heart disease.

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Have you ever wondered if worrying about developing an illness might be enough to make you sick? Being a worrier isn't heart healthy.

Worriers more likely to get heart disease?

The finding suggests, but in no way proves, anxiety about health is bad for the heart.

The research is the result of standardized surveys designed to gauge health anxiety among 7052 participants of the Norwegian Hordaland Health Study (HUSK) born between 1953 and 1957.

When researchers looked at people most anxious about their health - whether they would develop a chronic type illness - they found they were twice as likely to have died from heart disease.

The study tracked the heart health of participants until 2009, eliminating those who were treated for or who developed heart disease or died from heart related illness within the first year of enrolling.

The finding isn't as new as it may seem though. Anxiety and stress are known to raise corstiol levels that can take a toll on overall health.

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This study is a big different because it specifically looked at the chances a person would develop heart problems from worrying about health.

The study found people who run to the doctor for perceived health issues. Anxiety can lead to a variety of symptoms, some of which can feel life-threatening.

Does it mean you shouldn't worry about your health? Not exactly.

The study authors say people with high anxiety pose somewhat of a dillema for healthcare practitioners. They also note the problem does need to be addressed. Recognizing what is happening is the first step for clinicians who could potentially treat anxiety with medications or other therapies.

The researchers conclusion

"This finding corroborates and extends the understanding of anxiety in various forms as a risk factor for [heart disease]. New evidence of negative consequences over time underlines the importance of proper diagnosis and treatment for health anxiety".

There was also a 73% higher likelihood that health worryworts would develop heart disease, the study found.

BMJ Open 2016;6:e012914 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012914

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