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Worrying About Your Health Is Bad for Your Heart



Asking "Dr. Google" about your symptoms may cause more anxiety than you anticipated.

Worrying needlessly about your health is easy to do, especially with instant access to a world of medical knowledge at your fingertips. You feel a slight twinge in your side or a sudden headache and ask “Dr. Google” what’s wrong by searching for your symptoms. In a matter of moments, you’ve convinced yourself the twinge you felt is a rare disease that will be your ultimate demise.

The good news is, statistically speaking, you likely don’t have whatever disease you’ve self-diagnosed through the internet. However, the bad news is worrying about your health constantly can create its own set of health problems.

Anxiety and Heart Health

Researchers examined the health records of more than 7,000 people in a recent study. They found that people who reported a high level of anxiety about their health were 70 percent more likely to have developed heart disease over the course of the 13 year study. This led the researchers to conclude that health-related anxiety should be considered a potential risk factor for coronary heart disease.

The connection between anxiety and heart disease is likely from a hormone called cortisol. In times of stress, your adrenal glands release cortisol as part of the body’s “fight or flight” response. This is a good thing in the short-term, since it helps use survive in an emergency situation. However, when the organs in your body are exposed to cortisol consistently over the long-term, it creates health issues. When it comes to your heart, this can result in increased risk for heart disease, heart attack and strokes.

Tips to Reduce Health Anxiety

Health anxiety, sometimes called hypochondria of illness anxiety disorder, is the preoccupation with getting sick. People who experience this condition may misinterpret normal bodily functions, such as a noisy stomach or a minor ache, with something more serious. One of the problems with health anxiety is people who experience it frequently seek reassurance for small things that aren’t actually health problems, but out of fear avoid seeking help for more significant symptoms that may be signs of an actual illness.

If you are experiencing health anxiety, the following strategies may help alleviate your symptoms:

  • Get a checkup: You should always feel comfortable consulting with your doctor about your symptoms. It’s better to find out there is nothing wrong than to continue worrying.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice: If your doctor examines you and determines you are not sick, ask for advice on how to alleviate the symptoms you are feeling. There may be other solutions that will help.
  • Don’t rule out therapy: Psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help with health anxiety. These solutions are not a sign of weakness, and can help reduce your anxiety and the physical symptoms it creates.
  • Consider medication: Like psychotherapy and CBT, antidepressants and antianxiety medications can also help to reduce or eliminate your health anxiety.
  • Change your diet and consult the experts: Dietary changes like avoiding caffeine and foods that create stomach upset can help to reduce anxiety. You should also consult a pharmacist before taking over-the-counter medications, since some can increase anxiety.

Overcoming health anxiety is possible, and it’s the right step to take in order to protect your heart. Don’t worry needlessly over questions about your health; talk to your doctor and get the actual answers.

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