Serious Cardiovascular Incidents and Death More Likely for those with both Heart Disease and Generalized Anxiety Disorder


The archives of General Psychiatry recently published a report that shows an increased risk for serious cardiovascular incidents such as heart failure, stroke, heart attack and death for patients who have an anxiety disorder as well as heart disease. The article reports a staggering statistic of between almost 1 out of 4 to nearly 1 out of 3 heart patients who also have anxiety.

The study was led by a scientist at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, Dr. Elisabeth J. Martens. She and her team evaluated just over 1000 heart patients using interviews, medical tests, and an online version of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule. These were used at the beginning of the study.

106 of the patients had generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). For those patients, cardiovascular events occurred at the rate of 9.6 percent a year over the next 5.6 years, compared to only 6.6 percent for those patients without GAD. After factoring out things that could skew the results, such as sex or other health conditions, they found that the increased risk for those patients with GAD was 74 percent.

These findings suggest that a heart patient’s prognosis may be affected by the presence of GAD. Also, diagnosing and treating anxiety in heart patients is something that should be considered as part of their overall treatment.

The study does not answer the question as to why this percentage is so much higher for those heart patients with GAD. Further research is needed to more fully understand the correlation.

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