The findings add another trait to a growing list of psychological profiles linked to heart disease, including anger or hostility, Type A behavior, and depression.
“There’s a connection between the heart and head,” said Dr. Nieca Goldberg of the New York University School of Medicine, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association who wasn’t involved in the study.
“This is very important research because we really are focused very much on prescribing medicine for cholesterol and lowering blood pressure and treating diabetes, but we don’t look at the psychological aspect of a patient’s care,” she added. Doctors “need to be aggressive about not only taking care of the traditional risk factors .. but also really getting into their patients’ heads.”
The research was published Monday by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Everybody’s anxious every now and then. At issue here is not the understandable sweaty palms before a big speech or nervousness at a party, but longstanding anxiety — people who are socially withdrawn, fearful, chronic worriers. It’s a glass-half-empty personality.
“Although the behavior is quite different … if you look at the physiological response of these people, they’re quite similar,” Shen said. “All have raised blood pressure, heart rate, they produce more stress hormones.”
So, would treating anxiety lower the risk? No one knows, cautioned NYU’s Goldberg. That’s why these personality traits are considered “markers” for heart disease, not outright “risk factors” like cholesterol or blood pressure.