London : Panic attacks predispose people to a greater risk of heart disease or a heart attack, with younger people being more vulnerable.
People younger than 50 when first diagnosed had a significantly higher risk of subsequent heart attacks (or myocardial infarctions, MI), but this was not the case in older people.
The study also found there was a significantly higher incidence of subsequent coronary heart disease (CHD) in people diagnosed with panic attacks/disorder at all ages, but this was more marked in the under 50s.
However, the research also showed that risk of dying from CHD was actually reduced amongst people of all ages who had been diagnosed with panic attacks/disorder.
The study is the first to look at a very large sample of all ages (404,654 people) selected from a primary care population that can be broadly generalised to other countries with a similar socio-demographic structure.
“Not much is known about the relationship between panic disorder and cardiac disease,” said Kate Walters, senior lecturer at University College, London, who led the research.
“The symptoms of panic attacks can closely mimic those of a heart attack or acute cardiac disease, and it seems that there may be a complex relationship between them,” she added.
“Our findings have significant implications for clinicians. Panic attacks were associated with a significant increased risk of a subsequent diagnosis of CHD and acute MI in those aged younger than 50.”
Walters and her colleagues looked at primary care medical records for 57,615 adults diagnosed with panic attacks/disorder and 347,039 adults who did not have the condition, according to a release of University College.
The research was published in the European Heart Journal.