Excessive Worrying Can Lead to Heart Disease

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    Most people believe it is innate for humans to be self-preservative. You may know of someone who is always checking symptoms online or going to the doctor every week. Some take this self-preservation to another level in what is termed health anxiety, the excessive worrying by a patient over having a serious illness, and seeking medical advice in the absence of a physical disease.

    Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States affecting over 18% of the population or 40million people. Known to be a risk factor for heart disease, anxious people have a 48% higher risk of dying from a heart condition. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for Americans, accounting for approximately 25% of deaths in 2008.

    Line Iden Berge and researchers from the Helse Bergen hospital in Bergen, Norway, examined the link between health anxiety and heart disease publishing the results in online journal BMJ Open.
    Berge and team studied participants in the Norwegian Hordaland Health Study (HUSK). They followed participants over a period of 12 years in a team effort between the National Health Screening Service, the University of Bergen, and local health services.

    All 7,052 participants were born between 1953-1957 and had to answer questions about their health, lifestyle, and educational achievement. Participants were asked to report their anxiety levels using the Whiteley Index. Scores above 90 percent were considered to be anxiety cases. Throughout the entire study period, 234 participants, or 3.2 percent of the entire sample size, had either acute angina or a heart attack.
    Compared to those who did not report anxiety, twice as many participants who did report anxiety developed a heart disease during follow-ups. Researchers found a 73% increased risk of developing ischemic heart diseases among people with health anxiety. The risk was greater with the more severe the anxiety levels.
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