New research shows that highly anxious patients with heart disease face nearly double the risk of heart attack or death when compared to those with a more serene outlook on life. Patients whose anxiety intensified over time were in greatest peril, while those who started out highly anxious but later found inner calm markedly reduced their risk. The research appears in the May 22, 2007 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Here are some of the symptoms of anxiety that has reached an unhealthy level:
- muscle tension
- poor concentration
- physical problems such as frequent upset stomach
- excessive feelings of embarrassment in social situations
- heart palpitations
Previous studies have shown that mental stress and depression have harmful effects on the heart and blood vessels, but until now there has been little information on the corrosive effects of anxiety or the benefits of relieving anxiety over time.
For the study, Dr. Blatt and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School recruited 516 patients with proven coronary artery disease. At the beginning of the study and again each year patients completed a standardized questionnaire about their feelings during the previous week, for example, whether they felt peaceful, felt something bad would happen, took a long time to fall asleep at night, or had upset bowels or stomach.
Patients were followed-up for an average of more than 3 years. During that time, 19 patients died and 44 had a nonfatal heart attack. Cumulative anxiety scores were averaged and adjusted for age, and the patients divided into 3 groups. Those with anxiety scores in the highest third had nearly double the risk of heart attack or death when compared to those with anxiety scores in the lowest third.
James L. Januzzi, M.D. agreed. “This study provides further insight into the complex connections between the brain and heart,” said Dr. Januzzi, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the cardiac intensive care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
Personal Opinion: Anyone who has reached this level of anxiety in their life needs to see a healthcare practitioner for guidance, and obviously not take medical advice from a website. One recommendation of what has reduced stress and anxiety for the patients of many Naturopathic physicians and Holistic MD's would be supplementation by Rhodiola rosea, traditionally used in Scandinavian countries for stress and anxiety reduction. Here's an unadulterated commercial plug, but a worthy one because this product changed my life for the better: Tne clinically tested, safe and effective brand is Arctic Root®. Other supplement recommendations are listed in the linked Wikipedia article (click on headline). Note that dietary supplements of this sort are not medications but work by supplementing your body's natural ability to fight off stress.