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Anxiety Raises Heart Attack Risk
Date:1/8/2008

Older men with chronic anxiety are at substantially higher risk, experts say

TUESDAY, Jan. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Older men who suffer from chronic anxiety substantially increase their risk of having a heart attack, a new study reports.

While stress has been linked to an increased risk of heart problems, this is the first time that chronic anxiety has been identified as a risk factor also.

"There is an independent contribution of anxiety that can predict the onset of a heart attack among healthy older men," said lead researcher Biing-Jiun Shen, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Even after accounting for anger, hostility, depression and type A personality, anxiety still predicted the onset of a heart attack, Shen said. "The relationship between anxiety and heart attack cannot be explained by depression, hostility or type A personality," he said.

In the study, Shen's group collected data on 735 men who participated in the Normative Aging Study, which assesses medical and psychological changes associated with aging. Each of the men completed psychological testing in 1986 and had no heart problems at the time. The men were followed for an average of 12 years.

The report appears in the Jan. 15 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

During follow-up, the researchers found men who had chronic anxiety had a 30 percent to 40 percent increased risk of heart attack. Those with the highest levels of anxiety on psychological testing had an even higher risk of heart attack.

The risk posed by anxiety remained even after the researchers adjusted their data to account for standard cardiovascular risk factors, health habits, and negative psychological and personality traits, Shen said.

Whether treating anxiety reduces the risk of heart attack isn't known, Shen said. "But the implication is there,"
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