Women Prone to Anxiety After Heart Attack

Gender impacts how a person recovers from the life-threatening event.

By Erik Strand, published on August 1, 2003 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015

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."