By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Evidence is becoming stronger that a broad range of mental disorders carries an increased and independent risk of coronary artery disease. A 2014 study of more than one million Swedish men clearly revealed this connection. Researchers checked more than 20 years’ worth of medical databases and hospital admission records and found an increased risk among individuals with depression, schizophrenia, and alcohol and drug abuse disorders. The Swedish study strengthens previous suggestive evidence that anxiety, addiction, and schizophrenia also carry a higher risk.
And speaking of anxiety, a new study from the University of Pittsburgh has also found that Americans with higher levels of anxiety have an increased risk of stroke. “Anxiety is a modifiable experience that is highly prevalent among the general population,” the researchers said, and “its assessment and treatment may contribute to developing more effective preventive and intervention strategies for improving overall cardiovascular health.”
My Viewpoint: The link between depression and heart disease is well-established, although researchers are not entirely clear about the mechanism. My feeling is that it has a lot to do with stress and interference with the body’s normal biochemical operations.
What this Means to You: Stress – emotional and physical – is involved in all of these factors. Stress throws the autonomic nervous system out of balance, thickens the blood, promotes high blood pressure, and impairs the body’s ability to regulate inflammation – all underlying issues in cardiovascular disease. Alcohol and drug abuse set the stage for even greater problems. Cardiovascular toxins, these substances can trigger acute and chronic problems leading to serious cardiovascular disease.
Recommendation: If you have anxiety, you must try to find a confidant or a health professional who can help you alleviate the anxiety through a mind-body approach. Schizophrenia, alcohol abuse and substance abuse are much more challenging because people commonly deny that they have a problem.
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