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Heart Diseases & Anxiety - Don’t Underestimate the Impact

Home > Blogs > Heart Diseases & Anxiety - Don’t Underestimate the Impact

Heart Diseases & Anxiety - Don’t Underestimate the Impact

Cardiology | by Dr. Rakesh Sarkar | Published on 09/12/2022

Can anxiety cause a heart attack? Well, you must have certainly heard or read that too much stress that in turn causes anxiety is not good for your heart. These days it has become a major health concern due to lifestyle changes, hectic corporate jobs, and busy daily schedules.  

So it’s important to keep a check on stress levels. If you are so stressed that you also have anxiety and don’t have healthy coping mechanisms, then it can lead to conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, chest pain, and irregular heartbeats. Anxiety can cause sudden spikes in blood pressure and if you face extreme episodes of anxiety, you can develop hypertension over a period of time. Hypertension is a known hazard for the heart. 

Studies suggest that unchecked anxiety can lead to narrowing of the blood vessels eventually contributing to heart conditions. When you are anxious, the body releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. During a real emergency, these hormones help reduce blood flow to the other organs and enhance blood flow to certain parts of the brain during a fight or flight response to help you avoid danger. But when you routinely experience bouts of uncontrolled anxiety and adrenaline or cortisol are released in the body, they interfere with almost every other organ’s functioning including the heart. Therefore, healthy coping mechanisms to control your anxiety are crucial. If you don’t know the ways to manage anxiety, then this write-up is for you.

You will find comprehensive information on how anxiety affects heart health and what you can do to reduce these issues. So, let’s get started with the basics first.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety can be an overwhelming experience for any person and usually people suffering from it don’t even know they have such a condition. So, it is crucial to raise awareness about this. 

The very first thing about anxiety you must know is that it is your body’s natural response to stress. Normally, anxiety is caused when one perceives danger. But when anxiety is triggered by more ordinary occurrences, this is an issue that can come up as panic attacks, anxiety attacks and an inability to complete even daily tasks.

When you have ordinary anxiety, this is often related to situations that are perceived as a threat by the brain or simply situations where you need to perform. The latter is also known as performance anxiety and is quite normal. For instance, interviewing for a job or moving to a new city can cause anxiety. This is both natural and helpful. However, in cases of extreme anxiety, unbearable and physical discomfort that lasts longer than it should is involved.

Extreme anxiety stops you from doing things you love and in fact, you don’t feel like leaving your house in severe cases (this is called agoraphobia). Anxiety disorders these days have become very common and fall in the category of mental illness. Research indicates that women are more vulnerable to anxiety disorders than men.

Anxiety disorder types

Before we discuss the management of anxiety to reduce the risk of heart disease, it is important to know about its types as well.

  • Panic disorder: It means that you go through frequent episodes of panic attacks that come unannounced.  
  • Phobia: This type of anxiety involves extreme and uncontrolled fear of anything such as an activity, situation, or a particular object.
  • Social anxiety disorder: If you have social anxiety disorder then you are always living in the fear of being judged by other people in social circumstances.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder: You are always assailed by frustrating and fearful thoughts that repeat themselves incessantly and cause repetitive, compulsive behaviours that you cannot stop.
  • Separation anxiety disorder: You live in the fear of separating from your loved ones or home.
  • Illness anxiety disorder: It is also known as hypochondria and involves fears about your health.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Now, when we have talked about anxiety in detail, we must also be mindful of the symptoms:

  • You have anxious thoughts and beliefs that you cannot control
  • You constantly feel restless
  • You cannot concentrate
  • You have trouble falling asleep
  • Fatigue and irritability is something you are all too familiar with
  • Unexplained pains and aches assail you 
  • You tend to feel out of control 

Understanding the body’s response to anxiety

If you are always anxious, remember one thing - it would certainly put additional strain on your heart and your body also reacts in different ways. It is not fully understood how anxiety or stress affects the heart. However, as per studies, it is identified that chronic anxiety increases your heart rate and blood pressure. As a result, it causes plaque build-up in the coronary arteries and enhances heart disease risk.

The body begins releasing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in stressful situations. These hormones lead to increasing heart rate and blood pressure as it allows you to deal with whatever emotion or circumstance you are going through. After the situation is passed, the hormone levels drop down to normal.

People having normal cardiovascular health won’t experience serious issues as it is temporary for them. However, people who have underlying diseases such as sudden stress, heart diseases, and an increase in blood pressure are at a higher risk of a heart attack.

If you follow unhealthy coping mechanisms like poor sleep, smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating, and obesity, you are making yourself susceptible to heart disease. You must know that these are the contributing factors to cardiovascular disease.

Manage anxiety for a healthy heart

Our anxiety doesn’t come from thinking about what’s to come, but from the need to control it. So, it is very important to go easy on yourself and not let anxiety take a toll on your mind. You don’t need to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. 

If you don’t know how to manage anxiety, then here are some tips:

  • Get yourself involved in leading a healthy lifestyle. It will not only help in improving the risk of heart disease and will reduce any emotional stress and anxiety.
  • Include fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Always remember one thing, your body is what you eat. So, include items like whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats. Refrain from saturated fats, salt, processed fats, sugar, and junk food items.
  • Avoid alcohol and if you drink regularly then bring it down to one drink per day. Gradually, drink occasionally and you will notice that it is not impossible to leave such bad habits.
  • You should quit smoking completely as it not only damages your lungs but your heart as well.
  • Involve practicing relaxation exercises such as breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga.
  • Another coping mechanism is to talk to your friends, family, and anyone you feel close with as it will help in alleviating anxiety and stress.
  • Another crucial tip is to ensure monitoring your heart health often. You can do this by getting a physical check-up (cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure) done at least once a year.
  • Lastly, you don’t have to feel embarrassed when seeking professional help. Don’t avoid taking the assistance of a mental health advisor or psychiatrist if you observe that nothing is helping you manage anxiety.


These days it is not uncommon to feel stressed and experience anxiety disorders due to daily life demands. Without a doubt, anxiety is a natural biological response that an individual comes across in their life. But if it is uncontrolled and pathological, anxiety can cause havoc on your health, mainly your heart. Managing anxiety can go a long way to assisting you in preventing and reversing the condition causing heart disease.

With the right management, we can reduce the risk of heart disease. If you are unable to manage the condition on your own, make sure to take professional help. An expert will not only offer you the right treatment but also ensure that you are in better mental health. You can get in touch with a cardiologist expert in Kolkata at the BM Birla Heart Research Centre, the only cardiology hospital in the eastern region.



Am I having anxiety or a heart attack?

Anxiety and heart attack both cause discomfort in the chest, however, there is a difference. If you experience chest pain or discomfort, then observe this primary sign of a heart attack which is pain radiating to parts like the jaw, neck, or arm. If it’s a panic attack, then you will feel heavy on your chest and the pain stays in your chest.

Can anxiety cause a heart attack?

The answer is yes, as per studies, it is found that anxiety enhances the heart disease risk and many other cardiovascular diseases. 

Can anxiety feel like a heavy heart?

Yes, when having an anxiety attack you will feel heavy on your chest and discomfort is also there. You will have different feelings such as tension, apprehensiveness, and worries.