It has been shown in the past there is a distinct connection between anxiety and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The questions, however, have always been what exactly is the risk and why is there a connection?
A recent study, published in the December 16/23, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology may provide some information to help find answers to these questions.
The study surveyed over 6,500 men and women in Scotland. Of all the people surveyed, approximately 15% were considered to have psychological distress or anxiety. Blood samples were taken to measure risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Additional medical information taken from the participants included height, weight, physical activity, alcohol intake, and whether or not the participant smoked.
After following the participants for seven years, a total of 223 cardiovascular events, including 63 deaths, were recorded.
The researchers of the study believe that anxiety may be an indirect cause of the high rate of cardiovascular problems. Smoking and lack of physical activity were higher in those people suffering from psychological distress. It was these indicators that were more likely to be the direct cause of the cardiovascular disease. But it was apparent that people suffering from psychological distress were more likely to engage in these activities (or lack of activity).
According to this study, therefore, anxiety was not the main cause of cardiovascular disease but certainly was a contributing factor.
Further studies may be able to show whether treatment for anxiety can improve people's risk of heart problems by helping them to increase healthy behaviors. Certainly, treatment for anxiety should include increased exercise and smoking cessation programs. This can only lead to a healthier lifestyle.
American College of Cardiology (2008, December 19). Depression, Anxiety Spur Poor Health Habits, Damaging Heart And Blood