Anxiety, as you might suspect, is the most common psychological response to a heart attack. But not everyone is suffers equally: a new study at the University of Kentucky has found that women experience higher anxiety levels than men after a heart attack strikes.
Lead author Debra K. Moser, and her colleagues assessed the anxiety of 912 heart attack victims from five countries across the globe within 72 hours of their admission to the hospital. Based on a six question test that reliably measures anxiety, women had significantly higher anxiety levels than men, regardless of age, education, or marital status. The findings, reported in the July issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, were consistent across a variety of Western and Asian cultural groups.
Anxiety in the wake of heart attack has been linked to increased risk of life-threatening complications, including an irregular heartbeat, blocked blood vessels, and second heart attack. If doctors can identify patients at the greatest risk they can institute early treatment.
Moser strongly advocates measuring and managing the anxiety levels of heart attack victims, and believes many doctors underestimate its importance. "Some people have been slow to catch on. We now have quick and accurate methods for assessing anxiety," she reports. "It's such a risk factor that it should be measured as routinely as other vital signs."