Worried sick: Weve all heard the phrase, but now theres new evidence that might really knit your brow. New research shows that highly anxious patients with heart disease face nearly double the risk of heart attack or death when compared to those with a more serene outlook on life.
Patients whose anxiety intensified over time were in greatest peril, while those who started out highly anxious but later found inner calm markedly reduced their risk. The research appears in the May 22, 2007 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC).
"Most patients come in very anxious about their coronary condition," said Charles M. Blatt, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of research at the Lown Cardiovascular Research Foundation and a clinical professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston. "Im convinced that spending time with the patient and the family and interacting with them as a caring human being is critically important to clinical outcomes."
Previous studies have shown that mental stress and depression have harmful effects on the heart and blood vessels, but until now there has been little information on the corrosive effects of anxiety or the benefits of relieving anxiety over time.
For the study, Dr. Blatt and his colleagues recruited 516 patients with proven coronary artery disease. At the beginning of the study and again each year patients completed a standardized questionnaire about their feelings during the previous week, for example, whether they felt peaceful, felt something bad would happen, took a long time to fall asleep at night, or had upset bowels or stomach.
Patients were followed-up for an average of more than 3 years. During that time, 19 patients died and 44 had a nonfatal heart attack. Cumulative anxiety scores were averaged and adjusted for age, and the patients divided into 3 groups. Those with anxiety scores in the highest third had nearly double the risk of heart attac
Contact: Amy Murphy
American College of Cardiology