Harvard Mental Health Letter

Anxiety and heart disease

New research suggests there may be a link, but it's not clear why.

While there is a well-known relationship between major depression and cardiovascular disease, much less is known about how anxiety disorders affect the heart. Various studies have found that 24% to 31% of patients with cardiovascular disease have symptoms of anxiety. Moreover, severe anxiety — which may manifest as a panic attack — can mimic a heart attack (see "A panic attack or a heart attack?" below). One analysis of studies involving people admitted to emergency rooms for chest pain found that 22% of those who underwent cardiovascular testing had panic disorder rather than heart disease.

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