Heart attack aftermath- more women experience anxiety than men

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People can feel very anxious after a heart attack, especially women.

A study found that 40% of women felt anxious four months after a heart attack, compared to 23% of men. The study was shared at a big meeting, the ESC Acute CardioVascular Care 2023.

The Impact of Heart Attacks

Heart attacks happen suddenly and can be scary. They can cause people to feel low and anxious, said Dr. Jesper Kjaergaard, who led the study at Rigshospitalet—Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

Heart attacks can also change people’s lives very quickly. They may need to have tests to figure out why they had a heart attack and if they need treatment, which can be stressful.

This study shows that women might need more help dealing with these feelings.

What is a Heart Attack?

Heart attacks happen when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood. This can cause a person to pass out and die within 10 to 20 minutes if the blood flow is not restored quickly.

Heart attacks cause one in five deaths in developed countries. Fewer than 10% of people who have a heart attack outside of a hospital live to leave the hospital.

How Heart Attacks Affect Mental Health

People often feel anxious and depressed after a serious illness like a heart attack. These feelings can make it hard for them and their families to enjoy life.

The study wanted to find out how many people feel this way after a heart attack, and if women or men feel worse.

About the Study

The study looked at 245 patients who had a heart attack outside of a hospital and were brought to the hospital in a coma between 2016 and 2021.

About 18% of these patients were women. The team checked on the patients four months later to see how they were doing.

The team asked the patients how often they felt certain ways, like feeling panicked. The patients gave a score from 0 to 3 for each of 14 feelings, with 0 being “not at all” and 3 being “very much”.

The scores added up to a total between 0 and 21 for anxiety and depression.

A score between 8 to 10 could mean the patient is feeling some anxiety or depression, while a score of 11 or higher could mean the patient is feeling a lot of anxiety or depression.

The team also checked for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using a similar scale.

The Results of the Study

The average score for the patients was 2.7 for depression and 4.8 for anxiety. But women had higher scores on average than men: 3.3 for depression and 6.1 for anxiety.

About 43% of women had an anxiety score of 8 or more, compared to 23% of men. Also, women had higher levels of PTSD than men. Both men and women with anxiety also showed signs of PTSD.

What This Means for Heart Attack Survivors

Dr. Kjaergaard said that this study confirms what doctors often see: that heart attack survivors can feel anxious for months. This is especially true for women.

The study shows that it’s important to check on heart attack survivors and help them with any mental health issues.

Survivors should also feel comfortable telling their doctors if they’re feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed about their heart attack. More research is needed to find out if talking to a professional can help with these feelings.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease, and calcium supplements could harm your heart health.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about when an aspirin a day to prevent heart attacks is too risky, and results showing daytime naps could help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

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