Heart disease is more common in patients with panic attacks than in the general population, British investigators have found. The risk is particularly high among patients below the age of 50, who are also more likely to experience a heart attack.
However, these patients are less likely to die from heart disease, Dr Kate Walters and associates report in the European Heart Journal.
"The symptoms of panic attacks can closely mimic those of a heart attack or acute (heart) disease, and it seems that there may be a complex relationship between them," Walters, at University College London, said in a press statement.
Panic disorder=increased risk of heart attack
Using the UK's General Practice Research Database, the researchers studied data on approximately 58 000 patients aged 16 and older diagnosed with panic disorder and a random sample of 347 000 similar subjects without panic disorder.
Panic disorder was associated with a 38% increased risk of heart attack in those under age 50. The rate was highest for young women (ages 16-40 years), among whom the risk was increased more than threefold.
Panic disorder was also associated with heart disease and, in this case, the risk was seen in all age groups. Once again, young women with panic disorder had the highest risk.
Doctors should be on the lookout
Doctors should be on the lookout for heart problems in patients with panic disorder, the authors emphasise.
As noted, heart disease-related deaths were actually lower in patients with panic disorder. This could be, the investigators say, because "people with panic present earlier or more frequently to their doctor and therefore have their (heart disease) identified and treated." – (Reuters Health)
SOURCE: European Heart Journal, December 11, 2008.
What are the symptoms of a panic attack?