Mind Your Health: The Connection Between Anxiety and Heart Health

It was little wonder that chest pain, pressure, tightness, shortness of breath, and palpitations seemed to rule Jim’s life.

An excerpt from my book, It’s Always the Heart….

An exhausted, yet anxious, forty-five-year-old Jim walked into the exam room after several sleepless nights and an endless stream of twelve-hour workdays. Like the everyday stresses and strains in his life, his symptoms were not really new. In fact, as I would find out later in the exam, they had been steadily building for quite some time—perhaps even years. He did not really know where to start, so he began erratically telling me fragmented bits of information about an overwhelming number of complaints. He nervously answered yes to nearly every question I asked about the symptoms he had been experiencing. It was little wonder that chest pain, pressure, tightness, shortness of breath, and palpitations seemed to rule Jim’s life. His day was filled with chasing after the ever-elusive, unobtainable approval of others, when in reality, his focus should have been centered upon pleasing God.

Harvard Health believes that about a quarter of people with cardiovascular disease have some kind of anxiety problem and, in some cases, the anxiety seems to make the heart condition worse. As the association between anxiety and heart disease has not been fully studied, Dr. Una McCann from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine believes the connection is strong. “It’s my view and my personal clinical experience that anxiety disorders can play a major role in heart disease,” says Dr. McCann.

According to the Mayo Clinic, many people think anxiety is restricted to your mind, but your physical health is affected as well.

According to the Mayo Clinic, many people think anxiety is restricted to your mind, but your physical health is affected as well. Anxiety can cause abnormal heart rhythms, higher blood pressure, faster blood clotting, and lead to higher levels of insulin and cholesterol. Whatever it may cause, the answer is to address it spiritually in order to be healed physically.

If you struggle with anxiety, it’s important to keep things in perspective by reminding yourself that God really is in control. Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” When you feel anxious, stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that He is control and will help you through. Rely on Him. Lean on Him. Trust Him.

I know that anxiety must also be addressed from a physical standpoint, and the Mayo Clinic lists some great tips below!

1) Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It’s best if you develop a regular routine and work out most days of the week. Start out slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity.

2) Avoid alcohol and other sedatives as they can worsen anxiety

3) Use relaxation techniques. Visualization, meditation, and yoga are examples of relaxation techniques that can ease anxiety

4) Make sleep a priority. Do what you can to make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep.

5) Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking coffee. Both nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety.