We all feel stressed and anxious from time to time, but can these feelings have long-term effects on our health? Studies show that they may. Symptoms of anxiety over long periods of time can begin to place unnecessary stress on the heart, increasing the risk of heart-related issues.
What Effect Does Anxiety Have on the Heart?
The body’s natural response to stress is the “fight or flight” response. It is an evolutionary reaction that helped our ancestors stay alive during dangerous situations. Now, we rarely face any situations of real danger, but everyday triggers can lead to a person feeling this response.
In terms of your cardiac health, stress can cause:
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Increase in Blood Pressure
- A decrease in Heart Rate Variability (The variation in time between each heartbeat.)
Who is at Risk for Anxiety?
Anyone can suffer from anxiety, and almost everyone will experience periods of anxiety from time to time. But, studies show that anxiety disorders are more common in women. Women are two times more likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is unclear why this is the case, but some believe it may be due to a difference in the hormone balances in women and men’s bodies.
Genes may play a role in the development of anxiety disorders as well. There is a strong correlation between stress and anxiety disorders in parents passing to their children.
Does Anxiety Increase Risk of Heart Disease?
Studies suggest that there is a link between increased anxiety and heart disease, especially in those who suffer sudden cardiac death.
A group of researchers from Tilburg University in Holland combined data of 250,000 people. They found that those who experienced frequent anxiety had a 26 percent increased risk of coronary heart disease and a 48 percent increased risk of heart-related death.
A second study conducted in Sweeden by Imre Jansky, MD, Ph.D., found that anxiety more than doubled the risk of developing coronary blockages or having a heart attack.
Ways to Relieve Stress & Anxiety
Evidence is showing that long periods of stress is not good for your cardiovascular health. There are several methods that can be used to decrease the amount of anxiety you feel.
- Exercise Regularly: Exercising has been proven to improve people’s moods through the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins. In addition, it can provide a healthy outlet to release frustration and pent-up energy.
- Meditate: Meditation allows a person to focus on their breathing, slow their heart rate, and calm down.
- Get Plenty of Sleep: Sleep deprivation can cause irritability and unhappiness. Simply getting enough sleep can do wonders for mental health.
- Talk to a Loved One: Often times, an outside perspective may be all you need to calm your nerves. Sometimes, even just the presence of a trusted friend or family member can ease concerns.
For chronic issues, it may be recommended that patients begin taking anxiety medication and start attending therapy sessions.
Are You Concerned About Your Heart Health?
If you have any concerns about your cardiovascular health, we encourage you to reach out to us. Please call Heart & Vascular Associates of Northern Jersey, P.A. at (201) 475-5050 to make an appointment! You can also schedule an appointment online using our secure form.