Health Anxiety Can Increase Cardiovascular Health Risks

Woman with anxiety picking at her nailsPeople with excessive worry about their health are more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in the journal BMJ Open. Previous research has found a correlation between anxiety and heart disease. A 2010 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, for example, found a 48% increase in the risk of death to heart disease among people with anxiety.

Health Anxiety and Heart Disease

Researchers pulled data from the Norwegian Hordaland Health Study (HUSK), a long-term project that screened 7,052 participants for 12 years. Participants were born between 1953 and 1957, and they underwent health screenings between 1997 and 1999. The screenings included anxiety surveys using the Whiteley Index, as well as blood tests and height, weight, and blood pressure assessments.

During the study, 234 participants (3.3% of the total) had acute chest pain or a heart attack during the study. High levels of health anxiety were correlated with more cardiovascular disease. About 6% of people with health anxiety had cardiovascular health problems, compared to 3% without health anxiety. Overall, anxiety about health increased the risk of heart disease by 73%.

Higher levels of anxiety correlated with higher risk, suggesting increased anxiety may also increase cardiovascular health problems. Women are slightly more vulnerable to anxiety-related heart disease than men.

Behavior commonly associated with health anxiety, such as frequent medical visits and heart monitoring, did not reduce the risk of heart disease. This suggests people who are attempting to reduce their risk of heart disease with high levels of monitoring may be doing more harm than good.

Anxiety a Common Mental Health Condition

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 40 million adults—18% of the population—experience clinically significant anxiety each year. Anxiety diagnoses such as generalized anxiety, hypochondria, and obsessive compulsion are among the most common mental health conditions.

The study’s authors highlight the need for rapid identification and treatment of health-related anxiety.

References:

  1. Any anxiety disorder among adults. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-anxiety-disorder-among-adults.shtml
  2. Berge, L. I., Skogen, J. C., Sulo, G., Igland, J., Wilhelmsen, I., Vollset, S. E., . . . Knudsen, A. K. (2016). Health anxiety and risk of ischaemic heart disease: A prospective cohort study linking the Hordaland Health Study (HUSK) with the Cardiovascular Diseases in Norway (CVDNOR) project. BMJ Open,6(11). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012914
  3. Roest, A. M., Martens, E. J., Jonge, P. D., & Denollet, J. (2010). Anxiety and risk of incident coronary heart disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology,56(1), 38-46. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2010.03.034

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  • Ben

    Ben

    November 10th, 2016 at 11:30 AM

    One way or another we are the ones causing all this detriment to our own health.

  • Gregory

    Gregory

    November 11th, 2016 at 11:42 AM

    So go for walk, lift some weights and stop with all the worry so much!

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