Don’t Worry Baby….

The Beach Boys may have been on to something when they wrote, “Don’t worry baby, everything will turn out alright.” A new study suggests that worrying, especially about your own health, may boost your risk of heart disease.

From U.S. News & World Report:

Constantly worrying about having a heart attack may make it more likely you’ll have one, Norwegian researchers report.

In fact, people dubbed the “worried well” were twice as likely to develop chest pain or have a heart attack compared to those who weren’t anxious about their health, the new study found.

“People with high levels of health anxiety have about a 70 percent increased risk of heart disease, after taking [into] account other known risk factors,” said lead researcher Dr. Line Iden Berge. She’s from the division of psychiatry at the University of Bergen in Norway.

According to MedicalNewsToday.com, “Patients with health anxiety misread physical symptoms as serious illnesses, and they often seek repeated medical help for the same issues. In its most intense form, health anxiety becomes hypochondria.

So, why not simply take the Beach Boys’ advice and stop worrying? Simply put – telling people to stop worrying is unlikely to work. And if you tell them that excessive worrying might kill them….they may worry more. Medical Daily wrote

Although the connection between health anxiety and heart health seems fairly strong, the research is less clear on what doctors and worried patients should do about it, especially since anxiety attacks can often look and feel just like a heart attack. And telling these particular patients to stay on guard for heart disease signs may only worsen their anxiety.  

“These findings illustrate the dilemma for clinicians between reassuring the patient that current physical symptoms of anxiety do not represent heart disease,” the authors wrote, “contrasted against the emerging knowledge on how anxiety, over time, may be causally associated with increased risk of [heart disease].”

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) lists a number of tips on its website to help people deal with anxiety including:

  • Take a time-out. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
  • Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
  • Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
  • Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health.
  • Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.

If you are experiencing health anxiety…..speak with your doctor about it. You’re not alone. Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million Americans – nearly 20 percent of the population. Share your thoughts on how we can help Arizonans deal with this issue. Generating dialogue around the important health issues of the day is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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