People with anxiety disorders have a higher risk of developing and dying of heart disease. Scientists at the Clinic and Policlinic for Psychotherapy and the Institute of Experimental Hematology and Transfusion Medicine may have discovered why this might be true.
Lead scientists, Franziska Geiser and Ursula Harbrecht studied the effects of anxiety on blood coagulation (thickening of the blood or clotting).
For those suffering from panic disorder or anxiety attacks, utter fear are all too well known. Some of the common symptoms of an anxiety attack include heart palpitations, sweating, and tremors. Although physical symptoms such as these are common in panic or anxiety attacks, the symptoms normally disappear once the anxiety attack is over. But does the fear actually cause physical symptoms which can be dangerous?
Our bodies have two distinct functions relating to blood clotting. The first, coagulation, thickens the blood to help form a plug over injuries to reduce the loss of blood. The second is fibrinolysis, which helps to break down clots to keep the blood fluid and moving through the body.
The research study found fibrinolysis to slow down and coagulation to increase during periods of high anxiety. In severe cases, this could cause blockage in the arteries leading to the heart. According to Franziska, this could explain why people with anxiety have a higher incidence rate of heart disease.
A follow up study did show, however, that when people received treatment for anxiety, the increased coagulation and risk of heart disease decreases. This study underlines the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.
"Anxiety Linked to Blood Clots: Fear that Freezes the Blood in Your Veins", 2008, March 26, ScienceDaily
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