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Risk of Heart Attack, Death High Among Extremely Anxious Patients

A new research has found that extremely anxious patients with heart disease are at double the risk of heart attack or death when compared to those with a calmer attitude on life.

Patients whose anguish strengthened over time were in greatest danger, while those who initially had high anxiety levels but later found inner calm noticeably reduced their risk.

"Most patients come in very anxious about their coronary condition. Im convinced that spending time with the patient and the family and interacting with them as a caring human being is critically important to clinical outcomes," said Charles M. Blatt, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of research at the Lown Cardiovascular Research Foundation and a clinical professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston.

Earlier studies have shown that mental strain and depression have harsh effects on the heart and blood vessels, but until now there has been little information on the cutting effects of anxiety or the advantages of lessening anxiety in due course.

For the study, Dr. Blatt and his colleagues recruited 516 patients with confirmed coronary artery disease. At the commencement of the study and again each year patients completed a uniform questionnaire about their feelings during the previous week, for example, whether they felt calm, felt something bad would happen, took a long time to fall asleep at night, or had upset bowels or stomach.

Patients were followed-up for an average of more than 3 years. During that time, 19 patients died and 44 had a nonfatal heart attack. Cumulative anxiety scores were averaged and adjusted for age, and the patients were divided into 3 groups. Those with anxiety scores in the highest third had almost double the risk of heart attack or death when compared to those with anxiety scores in the lowest third. Looked at from another angle, the data showed a 6 percent increase in the risk of death or heart attack each
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