Anxiety and heart disease: A complex connection

A little bit of worry and stress is normal — even beneficial. But chronic anxiety may raise your risk for heart problems.


Image: © grinvalds/Thinkstock

If you feel anxious now and then, that's perfectly normal. In fact, worrying can spur you to take positive action that may benefit your health, such as getting screening tests or doing regular exercise. But excessive worrying can have the opposite effect.

"Small amounts of anxiety and stress can push people to be more productive. The problem happens when anxiety becomes so overwhelming that you're unable to function normally," says Dr. Christopher Celano, a psychiatrist at the Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. That level of worry and stress may represent an anxiety disorder, a group of conditions that affect some 40 million adults in this country.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »