Is It Anxiety or Heart Disease? Sometimes It’s Hard to Tell the Difference
Many of us will experience anxiety or panic attacks during our lives, both of which have symptoms that can mimic heart diseases like atrial fibrillation — an irregular heart beat. How do you know if symptoms are anxiety or heart disease?
Anxiety and panic symptoms are natural responses to help your body escape from danger or harm. They quickly elevate your heart rate and increase the force of each beat, similar to symptoms of atrial fibrillation. If you’re hiking and run into a bear, the anxiety you experience will help you get away. This is a normal response. But at times, your mind and body can experience anxiety from abnormal responses.
Symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks can significantly impair quality of life. Severe anxiety can stem from, as well as cause, depression. Five to 11 percent of people experience general anxiety disorder during their lifetime, which is defined as significant anxiety symptoms on more days than not during a six month period.
A Patient’s Anxiety or Heart Disease?
One patient I saw, who was over age 70, had a lifelong history of anxiety and panic attacks. She’d stopped leaving her home out of fear of another attack after she’d tried multiple anxiety medications without benefit. But when I saw her, we found that each episode of her anxiety was caused by a rapid heart rhythm. It was easily corrected by a simple procedure called an ablation.