Is health anxiety linked to heart disease?

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If you worry you'll develop health problems, you may wind up making yourself sick, suggest the authors of a study published online Nov. 3, 2016, by BMJ Open. They looked at the role health anxiety plays in heart disease. Health anxiety is a persistent preoccupation with having or acquiring a serious illness. It often accompanies other anxiety disorders or depression.

Researchers analyzed survey answers and physical exam information of about 7,000 middle-aged people, then followed their heart health for about 12 years. The study found people with health anxiety developed heart disease about 73% more often than people without health anxiety. The study was observational and doesn't prove health anxiety caused heart disease. For example, people with health anxiety may have been experiencing symptoms from early heart disease, which is why they were anxious. But other studies have shown a link between anxiety disorders and heart disease, and we know persistent anxiety takes a toll on mental and physical health. Tell your doctor if you feel anxious about your health.