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Men's Health

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Anxiety May Hike Men's Heart Attacks

Anxious Men May Be More Likely to Have Heart Attacks, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 7, 2008 -- Anxiety may make heart attacks more likely in aging men, a new study shows.

Anxious men were 30% to 40% more likely than calmer men to have a heart attack during the 12-year study, regardless of other physical or personality risk factors.

The study included 735 Boston men. When the study started, the men were 60 years old, on average, and had no history of coronary disease or diabetes.

The men completed personality surveys that gauged their anxiety, anger, depression, hostility, type A behavior, and other negative emotions. They also got blood pressure tests, provided blood samples, reported their alcohol and cigarette use, and noted other facts about themselves, such as their marital status and years of education.

Twelve years later, the group had had 75 heart attacks, 11 of which were fatal, according to a cardiologists' review of hospital records about any potential heart attacks.

High anxiety scores on the personality tests predicted which men had heart attacks, regardless of other factors including the men's age, cholesterol levels, marital status, education, and BMI (body mass index, which relates height to weight).

"Anxiety-prone dispositions appear to be a robust and independent risk factor of myocardial infarction [heart attack] among older men," write the researchers.

They included Biing-Jiun Shen, PhD, of the psychology department at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Shen's team notes that it's not clear if the findings apply to women, and more research is needed to understand the relationship between anxiety and men's heart attacks.

(If you've already had a heart attack, did you have anxiety issues beforehand? Do you have anxiety now? Talk with others on our Heart Disease: Support Group board.)

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