Depression and heart disease have been studied for decades, and it is clear that there is a relationship between them. Depression can worsen heart disease, and vice versa. But what about anxiety? Can it create the same type of heart problems as depression?
Our team of cardiologists at Cardiac and Vascular Consultants, Florida, know that the relationship between anxiety and heart problems can be complex. It can cause chest pain, and many people experience chest pain as a symptom of panic attacks.
Below, we will discuss the topic in more detail:
Does anxiety contribute to heart problems?
According to various studies, anxiety can lead to an increased risk of developing heart disease, having a heart attack or stroke. Anxiety disorders include conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Anxiety not only manifests itself in mental symptoms like fear and avoidance, but also in physical symptoms such as:
- Upset Stomach
- Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
- Increased blood pressure
In short-term cases, anxiety affects the heart for good reason. Your body’s natural response to perceived danger is to increase your heart rate and blood pressure to help you fight the danger or flee the dangerous situation. This is all part of the flight-or-fight response. This is helpful in dangerous situations, such as encountering a rabid dog while out on a jog.
Anxiety can be a problem when it chronically activates the body’s fight-or-flight response, even when there is no real danger. This can lead to chronic tachycardia (rapid heart rate) and high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of serious cardiac events such as heart attacks and strokes.
Anxiety due to Heart Conditions
It is also true that heart problems can cause anxiety. For example, if you have had a heart attack, you may worry that you will have another one. You may even develop PTSD from a heart attack. If you suspect you have developed PTSD, do not hesitate to ask for help. You may benefit from therapy or support groups.
The good news is that you can treat both anxiety and heart conditions by making lifestyle changes and exercising. Exercise helps improve your mood, reduces cortisol levels, and lowers blood pressure. It also boosts coronary circulation. Other lifestyle modifications that can help include practicing good sleep hygiene, managing stress, and eating well-rounded meals. If you don’t have heart problems, you can reduce your risk of developing them by managing your anxiety, attending therapy, and taking medication, if directed.