Sweating the small stuff leads to heart disease

A study finds older men who suffer from chronic anxiety substantially increase their risk of having a heart attack. While stress has been linked to an increased risk of heart problems, this is the first time that chronic anxiety has been identified as a risk factor also.

“There is an independent contribution of anxiety that can predict the onset of a heart attack among healthy older men,” said lead researcher Biing-Jiun Shen, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

In the study, Shen’s group collected data on 735 men who participated in the Normative Aging Study, which assesses medical and psychological changes associated with aging. Each of the men completed psychological testing in 1986 and had no heart problems at the time. The men were followed for an average of 12 years.

The report appears in the Jan. 15 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

During follow-up, the researchers found men who had chronic anxiety had a 30 percent to 40 percent increased risk of heart attack. Those with the highest levels of anxiety on psychological testing had an even higher risk of heart attack.

The risk posed by anxiety remained even after the researchers adjusted their data to account for standard cardiovascular risk factors, health habits, and negative psychological and personality traits, Shen said.

Exaggerated response to acute and chronic stress in anxious individuals may trigger a number of pathways which increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease and being stricken with a heart attack, Fonarow said.

“Highly anxious individuals should be aware they may face an increased risk of a heart attack and take proactive steps under physician supervision to control those cardiovascular risk factors which are modifiable including blood pressure, lipid levels, activity level and weight,” Fonarow added. HealthDay News)

Moral of the story, don’t sweat the small stuff.

  

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