A new study published by researchers from the University of Adelaide’s School of Medicine in Australia, has recently shown that individuals who suffer from panic disorder, or panic attacks, may be at much higher risk of heart attack and heart disease later in future.
Panic disorder is estimated to affect around 2 million adults in Nigeria, with women twice as likely to develop the condition as men.
A panic attack, also known as anxiety attack, is a brief episode of deep anxiety that causes the physical sensations of fear.
Individuals with panic disorder experience sudden feelings of intense fear and loss of control that can last for several minutes, known as panic attacks.
During these attacks, people may also experience physical symptoms, including sweating, breathing problems, dizziness, racing heart, hot or cold chills, chest pain and stomach pain, restless and irrational thinking , strong feeling of dread, danger or foreboding, scared about going mad, tingling and chills, sweating , accelerated heart rate, breathing difficulties, including shortness of breath, nausea or abdominal distress and dry mouth.
But according to the researchers of this latest study including Prof. Gary Wittert explained that the link between panic disorder and heart disease “remains controversial.”
Wittert added, that people who have panic attacks should closely monitor their heart health.
In an attempt to gain a better understanding of this association, Prof. Wittert and colleagues conducted an analysis of 12 studies involving more than 1 million men and women, of whom 58,111 had coronary heart disease.
Compared with individuals without panic disorder, those who did have the condition were found to be up to 36 percent higher risk of heart attack and up to 47 percent higher risk of heart disease.
The researchers said their study has identified a clear link between panic disorder and heart disease. However, they noted that the exact mechanism underlying this association remains unclear.
Prof. Wittert explained that the link between panic disorders and heart disease remains controversial, partly due to overlapping symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations and shortness of breath.
“Furthermore, we can’t rule out the possibility that in some people, the symptoms of a panic disorder represent a misdiagnosed heart condition,” he added.
While the researchers noted further studies are warranted to better understand how panic attacks affect an individual’s heart, they said this current study indicates people who experience panic attacks and anxiety should keep a close eye on their heart health.
Senior study author Prof. John Beltrame, also of the University of Adelaide’s School of Medicine, further explained that this new data suggesting a link between panic disorders and coronary heart disease, underscores the importance of these patients seeking medical attention for their chest pain symptoms and not merely attributing them to their panic attacks.
“Furthermore, if cardiac investigations reveal that the chest pain is due to an evolving heart attack, then early treatment may be lifesaving”, Prof. John added.
According to the findings earlier reported on Medical News Today, this study suggested that poor sleep can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, with the researchers calling for poor sleep to be added to the list of risk factors for cardiovascular disease.