December 15, 2008

Panic Attacks Linked to Heart Attacks

The stress of panic attacks may be just the beginning. New research shows people diagnosed with panic attacks or panic disorder are more likely to develop heart disease or suffer a heart attack or develop coronary heart disease (CHD) than the rest of the population.

Studies show the risk for having a heart attack was increased by 38 percent and developing heart disease increased by 44 percent. Researchers find the risk is even greater for panic attack sufferers under age 50. But interestingly, researchers found the risk of dying from CHD was actually reduced for panic attack sufferers by about 24 percent.

Researchers say the connection between the conditions could be due to an initial misdiagnosis of CHD as panic attacks. "The symptoms of panic attacks can closely mimic those of a heart attack or acute cardiac disease, and it seems that there may be a complex relationship between them," Kate Walters, Ph.D., a senior lecturer in primary care at University College London, was quoted as saying.

Dr. Walters cautions panic attack sufferers should not worry about these findings, as the increased risk of CHD and heart attack is small. The vast majority of panic attack sufferers will not go on to develop the conditions.

SOURCE: European Heart Journal, 2008;29:2981-2988


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