Chronic anxiety may cause heart attack
Jan 10, 2008 - 4:50:07 PM

New York, Jan 10 - Chronic anxiety may trigger heart attack, says a new study, suggesting highly anxious individuals to stay careful.

While earlier studies have linked stress to an increased risk of heart problems, this is the first time that chronic anxiety has been identified as a risk factor also.

A team of researchers led by Biing-Jiun Shen, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, collected data on 735 men who participated in the Normative Aging Study, which assesses medical and psychological changes associated with aging.

The findings of the new study, which appeared in the Jan 15 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, said that the risk of getting heart attack was more among people who are suffering from chronic anxiety.

All the men whose data were used for the study had completed psychological testing in 1986 and had no heart problems at the time. The men were followed for an average of 12 years.

During follow up, the researchers found men who had chronic anxiety had a 30-40 percent increased risk of heart attack. Those with the highest levels of anxiety had an even higher risk of heart attack, health portal HealthDay reported.

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.

Whether treating anxiety reduces the risk of heart attack is not yet known, Shen said. 'But the implication is there,' he added. 'It is something that doctors can look out for.'

Highly anxious individuals should be aware they might face an increased risk of a heart attack, the researchers said.

'They should take proactive steps under physician supervision to control heart attack risk factors which are modifiable including blood pressure, lipid levels, activity level and weight,'

However, the researchers said they were not sure whether women with same anxiety conditions also face the similar risk.

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