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Worrying About Your Health is Bad for Your Heart

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Wellness Do you worry that you’ll get sick, develop a serious illness, or be diagnosed with a chronic health problem? 

If so, you may be among the “worried well”—suffering from excess anxiety and stress that occurs when you become too preoccupied with your health.

Unfortunately, anxiety is a risk factor for heart disease. And, according to a new study, the anxiety that comes along with worrying about your health is no exception.

The research involved over 7,000 people born between 1953 and 1957. All of them were assessed for levels of health anxiety. The researchers tracked heart health using national data on hospital treatment episodes and death certification up to the end of 2009

Those with health anxiety at the start of the study were 73% more likely to develop heart disease than those without it. Additionally, they were twice as likely to die from this disease. The higher the anxiety levels, the greater the risk.

The researchers note that the behavior that comes with health anxiety—such as frequent monitoring and check-ups of symptoms—may place the body in a state of high alert.

Thus, while concerned with maintaining wellness, this behavior may have exactly the opposite effect.

“These findings illustrate the dilemma for clinicians between reassuring the patient that current physical symptoms of anxiety do not represent heart disease, contrasted against the emerging knowledge on how anxiety, over time, may be causally associated with increased risk of [coronary artery disease],” they conclude.

SOURCE: ‘Worried well’ may be boosting their risk of heart disease. BMJ Open. Nov 2016.

 

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