Anxiety and Heart Disease

Anxiety and Heart Disease

Is anxiety a contributing factor to heart disease? Can it also deter recovering from heart related issues? Many doctors believe so. If you suffer from anxiety, it is important to do all you can to manage your anxiety to prevent other health problems also. However, if you suffer from heart disease, dealing with this condition may cause anxiety as well.


How anxiety affects the heart

When someone experiences anxiety, the body’s reactions may also cause extra strain on the heart. Therefore, anxiety can be especially harmful to those diagnosed with cardiac disease.

The following cardiac risk factors and heart disorders may be caused by anxiety :


Decreased heart rate variability – Heart rate variability is the variation in the time interval between heartbeats. Even if your heart beats 60 beats per minute, that does not necessarily mean it beats every single second. It is normal to have some variation in how often the beats occur. Decreased heart rate variability may increase someone’s risk of death after an acute heart attack.


Tachycardia- This is rapid heart rate. In some serious cases, it interferes with normal heart function, increasing the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.


Increased blood pressure – Chronic high blood pressure can lead to coronary disease. Coronary disease weakens the heart muscle and may also cause heart failure.



Heart attack and anxiety


Dealing with anxiety after a heart attack can be difficult. It is natural to react to this life-altering event in ways that are similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. However, it is important for patients to visit with their doctor if the anxiety does not improve over time.

Someone who has a heart attack may:


  • be shocked by this near-death experience and afraid to participate in activities that they once did.
  • struggle with reliving the event, and also avoid the activity or place where it occurred.
  • feel negative and uncertain about their future.
  • have difficulty sleeping.


Furthermore, after a heart attack, many individuals may have a difficult time completing tasks essential to their recovery and a healthy lifestyle due to their anxiety. Some of these problems may include:


  • not taking  prescribed medications
  • not following prescribed exercise regimens
  • disconnecting from friends and family
  • inability to confidently resume their career and family responsibilities
  • not following a healthy diet


Some anxiety disorders may affect heart health


Obsessive-Compulsive disorder (OCD) – Patients  with OCD manage their unreasonable thoughts and worries by performing the same actions over and over. For example, a person obsessed with perceived cardiovascular symptoms may be concerned that their anxiety disorder is really a heart problem. The symptoms do after all mimic a heart condition.

Panic disorder – Panic attacks are sometimes believed to initially be heart attacks. Sufferers will feel terror, agitation, chest pains, stomach discomfort, dizziness, shortness of breath, and also have rapid heart rates.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – PTSD follows a shocking or frightening incident or sudden, life-threatening event. This may include a violent crime, major accident, or heart attack. Those who suffer from PTSD often have trouble dealing with anything associated with the incident that caused their anxiety.



Panic attack or heart attack?


It can be difficult to determine if a patient is suffering from anxiety or heart problems without proper treatment. A patient that suffers from chest pain—even if under the care of a physician for anxiety— should go to the emergency room. Blood tests can indicate heart muscle enzymes present due to a heart attack.

A cardiologist that is sensitive to anxiety issues will know how to sort out panic attack symptoms from heart attack symptoms and can also refer patients as needed if anxiety is the issue.


If you are having difficulty dealing with anxiety, please make an appointment with one of our providers. They would love to help you take charge of your life again. You can find a list of them at



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