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Panic Disorder Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Disease
Date:12/12/2008

Researchers not sure whether one causes the other, or one is mistaken for the other

FRIDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Adults who have panic disorder or panic attacks have an increased risk of heart attacks and heart disease, but not heart-related deaths, a new study shows.

British researchers analyzed the medical records of almost 58,000 adults diagnosed with panic disorder/attacks and more than 347,000 adults without the condition.

People who were younger than 50 when first diagnosed with panic disorder/attacks were 38 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 44 percent more likely to develop heart disease than those in the general population. People who were over age 50 when diagnosed with panic disorder/attacks had an 11 percent increased risk of heart disease.

The study appears in the Dec. 11 issue of the European Heart Journal.

"Not much is known about the relationship between panic disorder and cardiac disease. The symptoms of panic attacks can closely mimic those of a heart attack or acute cardiac disease, and it seems there may be a complex relationship between them," lead researcher Dr. Kate Walters, a senior lecturer in primary care at University College London, said in a European Society of Cardiology news release.

"Our findings have significant implications for clinicians. Panic attacks were associated with a significant increased risk of a subsequent diagnosis of CHD [coronary heart disease] and acute MI [myocardial infarction, or heart attack] in those aged younger than 50. This may be due to initial misdiagnosis of CHD as panic attacks, or a true underlying increased risk of CHD with panic attacks. Clinicians should be vigilant for this possibility when diagnosing and treating people presenting with symptoms of panic."

The study also found that adults of all ages diagnosed with panic disorder/attacks had a 24 percent lower risk of death from heart d
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