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Worrying about health increases the risk of heart attack

Ruminating and worrying about your health is bad for your heart. Psychiatrists at Sandviken University Hospital in Norway discovered this in a study in which more than seven thousand Norwegians cooperated. According to that study, which appeared in BMJ Open in 2016, the chance of having a heart attack is greater as you worry more frequently and more seriously about your health.

The researchers followed 7052 Norwegians who were born between 1953 and 1957 from the mid-nineties to 2009.

When the study started, the study participants had completed the Whiteley Index. That is a questionnaire that measures how much a person worries about his health.

On the basis of the outcomes, the researchers divided the participants into 5 equally large groups [quintiles]. Quintile 1 [Q1] = the most carefree participants; Quintile 5 [Q5] = the participants who were most concerned about their health.

The more the study participants ruminated, the greater the chance they had a heart attack.

Worrying about health increases the risk of heart attack

Worrying about health increases the risk of heart attack

When the researchers used mathematical voodoo statistics to brush away the effects of factors such as hereditary influences, age, education and lifestyle, the correlation remained intact. So it's highly unlikely that people who worry a lot are unhealthy, and that this is the reason that they have heart attacks more often than people who have no worries about health issues.

"In summary, similar elbow flexor 1RM strength and muscle endurance improvements were observed in young women after 10 weeks of training, independent of the performance of the repetitions until failure or training volume", the Brazilians wrote.

"Persons with high levels of health anxiety have [...] increased risk of ischaemic heart disease relative to persons with lower levels after adjustments for established cardiovascular disease risk factors, including lifestyle factors", the Norwegians wrote.

"This finding is of public health significance as ischaemic heart disease is one of the main causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide." "If persons with high levels of health anxiety stay alert with the intention to better 'control' and 'detect' early signs of severe somatic diseases, it might contribute to unintentional harmful effects as the autonomous activation associated with anxiety in general likely is associated with increased risk of ischaemic heart disease."

"These findings illustrate the dilemma for clinicians between reassuring the patient that current physical symptoms of anxiety do not represent heart disease, contrasted against the emerging knowledge on how anxiety, over time, may be causally associated with increased risk of ischaemic heart disease."

"At best, this finding might encourage patients to seek treatment for health anxiety and to trust their heart."

BMJ Open. 2016 Nov 3;6(11):e012914.

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