The work of mind and heart is immediately interconnected, perhaps more than the work of other organs. Any psychological factor is heartfelt and contributes to cardiac risk. And anxiety is no exception.
Anxiety is a psychological, physiological and emotional state that results from apprehensive behavior, i.e. that something bad or harmful may happen. Such behavior stresses the body and when it eventually becomes overly stressed, it can become symptomatic.
The anxiety symptoms, such as dizziness, chest pain, headache, shortness of breath, nausea, heart palpitations, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness, are nearly identical to those of a heart attack. In fact, you could have anxiety and still have a heart disease, or have a heart disease whose symptoms are causing anxiety. To make things worse, anxiety causes a fear of heart problems, and oftentimes this fear ends up contributing to further anxiety.
Since anxiety is a fear, it activates the fight or flight system, which our body uses to respond to fear responses. The brain triggers a number of hormones and chemicals that speed the heart rate, increase blood pressure, quicken breathing and boost the amount of sugar supplied to the muscles.
All this enables body to respond to an impending threat. However, if the body is persistently exposed to these changes, they can overwhelm its adaptive ability, leading to health problems.
The release of certain chemicals, such as cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone makes the heart beat faster, muscles tighten, breathing quicken and blood pressure rising. The release of stress hormones additionally activates the blood clotting ability. Long-term mental stress also stimulates the body’s production of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and activates molecules that fuel inflammation. When experienced over an extended period of time, these effects can cause damage to the blood vessels lining, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis. All this puts chronic anxiety sufferers at increased risk for cardiovascular problems, including hypertension, arrhythmia, heart attack and stroke.
Being in constant fear itself can alter the way the body behaves and this can bring about changes to nervous and blood system, which can have negative effect on the heart health.
Anxiety is a risk factor for cardiac morbidity and adversely affects heart patients. Therefore, recognizing and treating anxiety is important for improving the outcomes of cardiac disorders.