Anxiety and the Heart


The impact of anxiety on cardiovascular health has been studied less frequently than the impact of depression. Anxiety due to psychosocial stressors has long been linked to hypertension. Anxiety can result in autonomic arousal increasing circulating catecholamines. The development of hypertension and a pro-inflammatory state from anxiety increases the chances of developing coronary heart disease (Player & Peterson, 2011).

Scherrer et al. (2010) isolated the impact of anxiety from depression in a study of MI patients. While depression was found to be a factor in the incidence of MIs, they found anxiety to increase the incidence of an MI in patients without depression.

In a prospective Heart and Soul study, Martens et al. (2010) followed 1,015 outpatients to evaluate the effect of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) on subsequent cardiovascular events. Three hundred and seventy-one cardiovascular events occurred. The GAD group represented 9.6% of those who had a cardiovascular event as compared with the 6.6% non-GAD participants.

Treatment for anxiety

Treatment for anxiety can include medication and/or therapy, as well as social support and exercise. Cognitive therapy, with particular emphasis on not catastrophizing events, is also recommended.

Some patients with anxiety disorders will also respond to the antidepressant medications. The Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications for patients with cardiovascular disease. Those include Xanax or Niravam (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Valium (diazepam).

Wu et al. (2014) found a reduction in the incidence of MIs in patients taking Benzodiazepines as long as the dose was less than 5 mg. Larger dosages resulted in less favorable outcomes.

 


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