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Anxiety and Stress Disorders (Children)

Anxiety Caused by Heart Disease

07/24/2007

Question:

I read that cardiovascular disease and arrhythmias could be a possible cause of anxiety disorder, but am having trouble finding info that will expound on this. My 5 year-old son is a third generation "walking anxiety case". My husband and his father suffered as well. I know that it can be hereditary but could it be possible that all three suffered because of an underlying heart condition? The doctor thought he heard an abnormal heart sound in my son and my father-in-law dropped dead of a massive heart attack at age 62 (no know medical reason for this). I`m just concerned for my husband and son that they might have anxiety disorder caused by some as yet undetected heart condition.

Answer:

There is no genetic linkage between heart attacks and anxiety disorder, but I believe you are referring to the frequency with which anxiety, particularly panic attacks, present to emergency rooms as "heart attack" when instead they are a panic attack.  It is also possible to have co-existing depression and heart disease which tends to make for a poorer health outcome.  I would "stop worrying" about your grandson and ask your son to follow-up with his physician, as apparently he has due to the obvious cardiovascular health history in your family.

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Response by:

Floyd R Sallee, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati