The Stressed-Out Heart (Anxiety & Heart Health)


The Stressed-Out Heart (Anxiety & Heart Health)

Alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, another silent epidemic has been slowly unfolding across the globe. As the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a screeching halt to many businesses, plans, and life events, with long periods of quarantine, it has triggered a mental health epidemic of outsized proportions.

Studies from the World Health Organization indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. Hence, some scientists are pushing for more recognition of this deadly mental health wave as psychiatrists and psychologists struggle to deal with the aftermath.

Colloquially, the word “stress” is often used to describe feelings of anxiety. For example, before a big exam, a student might find himself experiencing thoughts of worry and feeling “stressed.” In this case, stress and anxiety mean the same thing.

Chronic stress can lead to irritability, anxiety, depression, excessive ruminations, and insomnia or waking up in the middle of the night with feelings of anguish. When such feelings impair your ability to function normally, stress becomes a medical problem that needs to be carefully dealt with.

Source: American Heart Association

How is Stress and Heart Disease Related?

The above infographic lays out some causal relationships on how stress increases the risk of developing new heart health problems. Multiple studies have also suggested that anxiety disorders are common in patients with established  cardiovascular disease and are  associated with adverse outcomes, such as reduced adherence to treatment, poor function, increased hospitalizations and mortality.

“Anxiety portends adverse prognosis in persons with established cardiovascular disease that is independent from depression,” wrote the authors of a study reviewing the relationship between anxiety and heart health.

How Do I Manage Stress?

To minimize continual stress, set priorities for what is most important to you and aim for work-life balance.

Make time for friends, family, and laughter. Ease stress and improve your mood through physical activity. Mindful meditation and deep breathing can also help reduce stress. Consider yoga, which combines movement, controlled breathing, and relaxation.

In addition, studies have shown that sleep and stress are interconnected. Stress can affect sleep, and the lack of sleep can in turn lead to more stress. Seven to eight hours of quality sleep per night is ideal.

How Do I Find Help?

If you are a heart patient and report new feelings of anxiety/depression, it may be a good idea to speak to your physician. He or she can help to investigate the cause of your anxiety and to coordinate with other physicians who are best trained to help you.

Although scientific studies tell us that anxiety can worsen clinical outcomes in heart diseases, the good news is that both anxiety and heart disease can be treated, even better if done concurrently. You just need to remember — help is always available.

Dr-Saurabh-Rastogi (1)
Dr Saurabh Rastogi
Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist
Nobel Heart Centre (Gleneagles)

Our Specialist
Dr. Saurabh Rastogi is a Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at Nobel Heart Centre with over 15 years of experience in the US and Singapore.

In his prior practice with Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, Dr Rastogi was the Director for the Cardiac Catheterization laboratory and Associate Program Director for Cardiology Senior Residency Program. Dr Rastogi has special interest in Complex Coronary Interventions Advanced Heart Failure management, Echocardiography and Nuclear Cardiology.