TUESDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Anxiety disorders may
increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and death
in people with heart disease, a new Dutch study suggests.
The research included over 1,000 people with stable coronary
heart disease who were assessed for anxiety disorder at the start
of the study and then followed for an average of 5.6 years.
During that time, there were a total of 371 cardiovascular
events (heart attacks or other incidents that may cause damage to
the heart). The yearly rate of cardiovascular events was 9.6
percent among the 106 patients with generalized anxiety disorder
and 6.6 percent among the other 909 patients.
After adjusting for a number of factors -- such as other health
problems, heart disease severity and medication use -- the
researchers concluded that generalized anxiety disorder was
associated with a 74 percent increased risk of cardiovascular
Many factors may account for the increase in risk, wrote
Elisabeth J. Martens, of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and
colleagues. Anxiety may be linked with surges in "fight or flight"
hormones called catecholamines that may be related to heart risks,
or people with anxiety may be more likely to seek medical care when
they have symptoms of a cardiovascular event (although researchers
noted this wouldn't explain the higher rates of death). It's also
possible that a common underlying factor may increase the risk of
both anxiety and heart events.
The study appears in the July issue of the journal
Archives of General Psychiatry.
"These findings have implications for clinical practice and research," Martens and colleagues concluded in a news release, since the evaluation and treatment of anxiety might now "be considered as part of the comprehensive management of patients with coronary heart disease."
They added that scientists need research programs to help
understand the impact of anxiety disorders on medical prognosis,
including that of heart disease, and to develop evidence-based
approaches to patient care.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about