New Study: If You Have This Disorder Affecting 20% of Americans, Your Risk of Heart Disease May Be Higher

Updated: Jun. 28, 2024

A few deep breaths could come as relief in more ways than one, if new research from Iran resonates for you.

If feeling anxious has ever spurred you to place your hand over your heart, new research may help articulate why this may be such a natural response. The Cleveland Clinic even highlights the link between anxiety and physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, and now a new study is connecting severe anxiety with what the authors call “the most important subtype” of heart disease.

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Researchers at the Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Iran aimed to identify the connection between anxiety and cardiovascular diseases. The researchers used data from a 10-year prospective cohort study that examined risk factors in residents of Mashad, Iran’s second most populous city.

They also employed the Beck Anxiety Inventory, a survey that measures the frequency of anxiety symptoms, to assess participants’ anxiety levels. This classified participants into four levels of anxiety severity.

The researchers found that people with higher levels of anxiety showed a greater risk for developing heart disease over the course of 10 years. People with panic disorder could experience a “significantly” increased risk.

Also of note is their observation that “a growing number of studies are showing the possible unfavorable effect of anxiety on [cardiovascular diseases], particularly on [coronary artery disease], which is a major and most important subtype of [cardiovascular diseases.” The Cleveland Clinic describes coronary artery disease as a narrowing of coronary arteries due to plaque buildup that can lead to a heart attack. The authors suggest more research is necessary to understand the biological link between anxiety, particularly panic disorders, and coronary artery disease.

In the meantime, this is a reminder of how truly beneficial anxiety management can be. Tools like therapy, deep breathing, meditation and yoga can offer quick relief, and a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, a balanced diet and enough sleep can make a major difference in maintaining your mental well-being. Talk with your healthcare provider about the options, including medication, that might be most appropriate for you.