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Anxiety and depression could increase the risk of heart attack and stroke

Posted August 29, 2018

We live in the world of opportunities, but a lot of people are suffering from poor mental health. Not only it significantly reduces their quality of life, it can also reduce their life expectancy. A new study from the Universities of Edinburgh and Queensland confirmed a long-standing belief that people with symptoms of anxiety and depression may have a greater risk of heart attack and stroke.

Men with the highest levels of distress were around 33 % more likely to experience a heart attack. Image credit: Tellmeimok via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The link between poor mental health can lead to cardiovascular diseases is still not very well understood. In fact, the correlation is still quite blurry even after the latest advancements. However, scientists have suspected for a long time that anxiety and depression may lead to a greater risk of cardiovascular diseases and even stroke. Now researchers analysed data from more than 220,000 people, who were 45 or older. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire to gauge their mental health. This questionnaire included questions about how often they experienced symptoms of depressions (such as feeling sad, nervous, hopeless or tired for no reason).

The data gathered through this questionnaire allowed scientists to categorize participants by their levels of psychological distress – low, medium and high. Obviously, people with stronger symptoms of anxiety and depression were categorized as having higher levels of psychological distress. Then it was just the matter of bringing heart disease and stroke numbers into equation to see, which group is facing the biggest risk of heart attack and stroke. The study took 4 years, but scientists found that the risk of heart attack and stroke increases while climbing through the different levels of the psychological distress.

But how much bigger is the risk of cardiovascular diseases when you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression? Well, for men with the highest level of psychological distress it is around 33 % bigger. Meanwhile the risk of stroke for women with the highest level of psychological distress is around 50 % higher. Dr Caroline Jackson, one of the authors of the study, said: “Our study provides further evidence that poor mental health can also impact on physical health. Doctors should actively screen people with mental health problems for signs of cardiovascular disease, so they can be treated appropriately to help manage their risk”.

But scientists are very quick to note that further studies are needed to understand how poor mental health can lead to cardiovascular diseases. However, for not evidences seem to be quite clear. We’re just left wondering why and how these two systems – mental and cardiovascular – are related.


Source: University of Edinburgh

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