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Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress that is characterized “by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil and includes feelings of dread over anticipated events.” Anxiety is often unavoidable, as everyone will experience stress at some point in their life. There are several benefits to experiencing occasional anxiety, as Psychology Today asserts that “anxiety is built into our primate origins as a warning system.” Anxiety can help you avoid danger because its presence elicits a heightened state of alertness which in turn can help to detect and attend to potential threats. However, chronic anxiety can negatively impact your heart health. According to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center there is a clear link between long-term anxiety and the onset and progression of adverse cardiovascular outcomes.

Anxiety And The Heart

Anxiety prompts the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, that act on the same parts of the brain that regulate cardiovascular functions. Studies suggest that the high levels of cortisol from long-term stress can trigger common risk factors for heart disease such as increased blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Prolonged anxiety can alter one’s stress response, causing inflammation in the body, which can damage the linings of the artery and can lead to a build-up of coronary plaque. Individuals with high levels of anxiety are at increased risk of coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, stroke, fatal ventricular arrhythmias, and sudden cardiac death. Research has found that “the relationships between anxiety disorders and cardiac outcomes likely are mediated by both behavioral and physiologic mechanisms, including autonomic dysfunction, inflammation, and platelet aggregation.” Anxiety is associated with the following heart disorders and cardiac risk factors:

  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia): Prolonged anxiety can interfere with one’s normal heart function and increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Increased blood pressure: Chronic anxiety can cause coronary disease or heart failure and weaken the muscle.
  • Decreases heart rate variability: Chronic anxiety may lead to a higher incidence of death after an acute heart attack.

Anxiety can act as an obstacle for those recovering from heart disease. People with heart disease, for example, are twice as likely to have heart attacks when they also have anxiety. Additionally, anxiety following a major cardiac event can impede recovery and is associated with a higher morbidity and mortality.

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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