Anxiety in women may mask heart disease symptoms

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Scientists from the University of Quebec found that women with an anxiety disorder may have less blood going to their hearts when exercising.

In women who had never been diagnosed with heart disease, they found that those with anxiety were 75 percent more likely than women without anxiety to have reduced blood flow to the heart during activity.

The findings suggest doctors may sometimes miss signs of heart disease in these women.

The research is published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes and was conducted by Kim Lavoie et al.

The team says if you’re a woman and you say you’re tired, short of breath, and really anxious about it, and you have no pre-existing heart disease, it’s possible that doctors are confounding the two problems.

Doctors may be more likely to attribute those symptoms to anxiety than heart disease.

Heart disease kills about the same number of women as men in the United States every year and is the leading cause of death in American women, causing one in every four female deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Women can experience different symptoms from men during a heart attack.

For example, women are more likely to describe chest pain that is sharp or burning and more frequently has pain in the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen, or back, the CDC says.

When a mood or anxiety disorder is added into the mix, a woman’s true health status can be misinterpreted.

In the study, researchers looked at more than 2,300 patients, including 760 women, who underwent an exercise stress test and a psychiatric interview.

The exercise stress test looked for reduced blood flow (ischemia), which can cause a shortage of oxygen to the heart, and the effects of gender and mood/anxiety on this condition.

The team found that women with anxiety were far more likely to show ischemia than women without anxiety. They found no similar effects in men.

They say that those with anxiety or depression who are concerned about heart disease can ask their doctor to order tests to check their heart health.

Anxiety disorders appear to be more common in women than in men, and there is a link between these disorders and worse cardiac outcomes.

The findings may indicate that anxiety symptoms such as chest discomfort or palpitations—which can overlap those of heart disease—may mask heart disease in women.

If you care about anxiety, please read studies about how anxiety and PTSD can strongly change your brain and 6 daily habits to reduce stress & anxiety.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about a new way to repair the human heart, and results showing drinking coffee could help reduce heart failure risk.

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