Today we will look at Anxiety vs. Heart Disease. I recently received this question on the blog:
When I get panic attacks while I’m in bed and listening to my heart race – I can’t help but think to myself this can’t good for my heart. I had read somewhere within these interwebs that anxiety can be linked to heart disease. Is this true or is this just a myth??
From everything I’ve read over the years and from my knowledge as a nurse, a racing heart does not lead to heart disease. Heart disease is caused by hereditary, diet and lifestyle factors. Smoking cigarettes or eating fast food can over time lead to heart disease. Being anxious, not so much…
While it’s true that being in a prolonged stress or anxiety state isn’t great for your body- know that an anxious racing heart does not mean you have heart disease.
I get a thorough physical every year. I am in my 40s and have been dealing with anxiety and panic for decades- my heart is fine. My ECG is normal, my cholesterol is good and I always get a clean bill of health. (I am also at a normal weight and I exercise 3 times a week.)
When I am anxious I do get a racing heart and this I know is caused by the surge of hormones that go along with the anxious feelings. Once the anxiety passes, the heart rate returns to normal.
Once I hit age 40 I began to notice missed beats or palpitations that sometimes took my breath away. I could feel these palpitations even while laying still at night and they were disturbing to me.
I had some cardiac tests, including wearing a 24 hour Holter monitor and – you guessed it- everything was normal.
Palpitations , racing heart, or missed heartbeats can also be caused by overestimation from too much nicotine, caffeine (coffee or tea) or alcohol, from simple indigestion, hyperthyroidism, and anemia.
If you worry about anxiety vs heart disease, take comfort in these words by the late Dr. Claire Weekes:
A healthy heart can tolerate a rate of over 200 beats per minute for many hours, even days, without evidence of damage.
Things that can help with palpitations and racing heartbeat:
- Learn to do diaphragmatic breathing, where the exhale is longer than the inhale
- Mediation or yoga practice
- Regular exercise
- Eating a healthy diet and staying away from processed foods.
As with every disturbing anxiety symptom, the key is to learn to live with the uncomfortable feeling without being too concerned about it. If you can just let your heart race away while you continue going about your business, eventually it will calm down. Learning not to focus in on the sensations and give it all your attention is the best way to do this.
If worrying about anxiety vs heart disease is causing you a lot of distress, please get checked out by your doctor. Once you get you clean bill of health, you can work on healthy ways to keep our heart functioning at its best.
I wish you peace,