Can Anxiety Cause a Heart Attack : 10 Amazing Facts

Can anxiety cause a heart attack? This sounds terrific and shocking simultaneously as one wonders how such a normal feeling, like anxiety, can cause a deadly heart attack. Everyone in their life has felt anxiety at some point. Some people get anxious more often than others, and some might feel less anxious; it varies Individually and occasionally. 

A person suffering and pressing his chest because of pain.
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Though it is not proven if anxiety directly influences heart attack, many studies have depicted anxiety as hurting the heart and resulting in coronary disease1. For example, a recent study in the American Heart Association Journal has shown that more anxious people are more prone to develop heart disease and have a higher risk of heart attack.

1. Anxiety and Its Causes

A woman sitting on dried grass and fading into dust. A concept of anxiety and depression.
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Anxiety is a sudden fear and uncomfortable feeling emerging from a particular situation. The levels and types of anxiety vary as per the situation. Fast heart rate, breath shortening, uneasiness, and sweating are average in a tense situation.

2. What is Heart Attack?

An illustration of heart rate. a red line of heart beat crossing a heart on a black background.
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A heart attack is a condition where the heart doesn’t work as per usual flow because of chronic stress cardiomyopathy.

Plaque formation caused by excessive cholesterol and fat eventually leads to a blood clot that interferes with the normal heart function artery to supply oxygen and blood, which results in a heart attack.

3. What is Anxiety Disorder?

A scary image of eyes wide open and black lines partially covering the eyes and face.
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A disorder that impacts our mental health. It is a chronic anxiety marked by restlessness, uneasiness, and breath shortening. When one counters to a stressful situation, the brain releases cortisol and adrenaline stress hormones, which results in hypertension and can increase blood pressure. Though not sure, it suggests that anxiety causes a heart attack because of its negative impact on heart health. 

4. Types of Anxiety Disorders

4.1. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD) 

A middle-aged man pressing his hands against his head with a distorted background describing anxiety.
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In this disorder, one keeps on engaging in specific activities. People suffering from OCD become obsessive about a particular activity and feel extreme anxiety when restrained.

4.2. Generalized Anxiety disorder 

In this disorder, one can constantly feel increased anxiety and tension daily. This impacts people’s everyday lives as it restrains them from living independently without worrying.

4.3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD)

A woman holding her head with one hand and keeping the other hand in front while denying something. The image with a distorted background describes stress.
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In this, people experience a sudden anxiety attack while encountering or recalling a past traumatic experience.

4.4. Panic Disorder

Can anxiety cause a heart attack? A man holding his face with both hands upward in distress and anxiety.
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It is an unanticipated chronic panic attack2, similar to a heart attack. People experience unbearable chest pain when they get hit by this panic attack. The sequence of recurring panic attacks is called a panic disorder.

4.5. Agoraphobia

It is a type of disorder that emerges as a post-panic attack symptom. In this, people feel anxiety about being in certain places and situations.

A woman looking from the inside of a glass window and placing both her hands on the glass.
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5. Difference between Heart Attack and Panic Attack

As they are similar in their symptoms, people often confuse or mistake a panic attack as a heart attack. For ordinary people, it is tough to differentiate between these two attacks, it needs accurate knowledge and expertise to tell if the condition is a heart attack or a panic, but emergency medication is needed in both cases. Though they, look-alike there are some differences between these two, which can be identified only by experts.

In a Heart attack, symptoms include sharp chest pain, breathlessness, and rapid heartbeat due to less oxygen supply to the heart. It might get worse over time.

Whereas in Panic attacks, symptoms include sudden stabbing pain in the heart. The chest pain gets released over time.

6. How to Prevent a Heart Attack-Like Situation?

Can anxiety cause a heart attack? Heart attacks3 become common in 1 of every other five people. It is the most alarming situation for the present time, as we can see several cases of heart disease and heart attack daily. It is high time to move our consideration towards this and take stringent measures to prevent it.

If we give importance to our hearts, the chances of anxiety-causing heart attacks may decrease. Just regular home-based measures can help prevent heart attack-like situations.

6.1. Exercise

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Exercise is like a free-of-cost medicine for almost every disease. Regular exercise will keep you energetic throughout the day, making you feel more confident and attentive toward your work. Particularly for heart disease, it can be called a panacea as it helps regulate normal blood pressure and burn out excess fat and cholesterol, which decreases the risk factors of heart disease.

6.2. Healthy food

A plate with healthy fruits was kept in it and a set of dumbbells and a measuring tape were kept alongside in a plain white background.
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Healthy food is a way to start a healthy lifestyle. There’s a saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. If we carefully choose what we consume according to our body’s needs, we can achieve a disease-free life. Can anxiety cause a heart attack? Maintaining a healthy diet will reduce the chances of almost all life-threatening diseases like cardiovascular disease4.

6.3. Self-Care

A woman holding a heart-shaped balloon and jumping with joy.
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 Self-care is the best way to self-love. Self-care may include a broad range of things, explicitly doing something you love and enjoy, going outside, meeting with friends, traveling to different places, etc.

These can be called relaxation techniques which help your mind and body relax. Can anxiety cause a heart attack? This will reduce the recurring feelings of anxiety and ultimately will support maintaining a good heart condition.

7. What to Do in an Emergency of Heart Attack/Panic Attack?

An image of two paramedics moving a patient in the ambulance after an emergency.
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No matter which case of an attack you get while experiencing such physical symptoms as chest discomfort, restlessness, stress, and hypertension5, you should seek emergency medical assistance. Expert doctors could catch the difference and lead the process of medication accordingly.

People who have already experienced a heart attack are more prone to another heart attack when facing a sudden stressful situation. They should follow the prescribed medications and maintain a healthy lifestyle for better heart health.

Suggested reading: Can anxiety cause a heart attack

8. Conclusion

Can anxiety cause a heart attack? Anxiety might not be directly responsible for a heart attack. Still, recurring pressure will lead to anxiety disorder and a heart attack. In today’s stressful lifestyle, people tend to ignore their health and keep busy with their strict schedules.

In this busy lifestyle, life-threatening diseases like heart disease, heart failure, and panic attacks have become common because people pay more attention to their future than their present health condition. As we say, “health is wealth”; health is our true wealth. Only with our better health can we create a better future.

  1. Januzzi, James L., et al. “The influence of anxiety and depression on outcomes of patients with coronary artery disease.” Archives of internal medicine 160.13 (2000): 1913-1921. ↩︎
  2. Livermore, Nicole, Louise Sharpe, and David McKenzie. “Panic attacks and panic disorder in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a cognitive behavioral perspective.” Respiratory medicine 104.9 (2010): 1246-1253. ↩︎
  3. Ridker, Paul M. “Evaluating novel cardiovascular risk factors: can we better predict heart attacks?.” Annals of internal medicine 130.11 (1999): 933-937. ↩︎
  4. Gaziano, Thomas, et al. “Cardiovascular disease.” Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. 2nd edition (2006). ↩︎
  5. Staessen, Jan A., et al. “Essential hypertension.” The Lancet 361.9369 (2003): 1629-1641. ↩︎

Last Updated on by Aditi Gautam

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