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Anxiety raises heart attack risk

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Research has revealed that anxiety can raise the risk of a patient suffering a stroke, heart attack or heart failure.

The link cannot be attributed to health factors such as smoking or biological factors, for example hormone levels, according to Dr Dr. Elisabeth J. Martens of Tilburg University.

Chronic worry and tension are symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder, with patients usually treated with medication and certain kinds of therapy.

Martens and her team had previously uncovered a link between depression and risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events in the same group of patients.

It was part of the Heart and Soul Study, an investigation of the relationship between psychological disorders and cardiovascular events in 1,024 California heart disease patients.

Researchers found dozens of factors that might explain why the anxious patients were at greater risk, including physical activity, depression and whether or not they took prescribed medications, and inflammation.

Allowing for this link, the relationship was still there, with anxiety disorder increasing risk by 74%.

In their paper in the Archives of General Psychiatry, Martens and her team suggest several explanations for the relationship - for example, surges of “fight-or-flight” hormones due to anxiety could be a factor.

Meanwhile anxious patients might also be less likely to seek out preventive care.

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