Shen's team is hoping to study that possibility. "Hopefully, that will reduce the risk for heart disease," he said.
In addition, it isn't known if women are also at risk for heart attack from chronic anxiety, Shen noted.
One expert agreed that psychological factors play a significant role in the risk for having a heart attack.
"Psychological characteristics including anxiety, anger, hostility and type A personalities have been associated with increased risk of heart attack in a number of prior studies, and this study again shows that chronic anxiety appears to raise an individual's heart attack risk," said Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a cardiology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"An important finding of this study is that anxiety not only represents an independent risk factor for heart attack but may also explain the associations between heart attack risk with other psychosocial risk factors," Fonarow said.
Exaggerated response to acute and chronic stress in anxious individuals may trigger a number of pathways which increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease and being stricken with a heart attack, Fonarow said.
"Highly anxious individuals should be aware they may face an increased risk of a heart attack and take proactive steps under physician supervision to control those cardiovascular risk factors which are modifiable including blood pressure, lipid levels, activity level and weight," Fonarow added.
There's more on anxiety disorders at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
SOURCES: Biing-Jiun Shen, Ph.D., assistant professor, psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology,
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