Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Panic attack may lead to another kind of attack
Most people know intuitively that our psychological well being and physical well being are connected, but it is pretty hard to prove. Sure, depression, anger, hostility, even "Type A" behavior are linked with physical health problems, but no one is exactly sure why. It could be that stress hormones are released in such high concentrations that they negatively impact the heart. It might simply be that people who are susceptible to those behaviors also are more likely to skip doctor's appointments and engage in higher-risk behavior.
Still, a new study in a publication from the Journal of the American Medical Association caught my eye today (Full Story). After studying post menopausal women who had heart attacks or strokes, something interesting emerged as a potential cause. Researchers found that having just one panic attack seemed to increase the risk of future heart attack or stroke by threefold over the next five years (Full Study). That's right, just one panic attack, and it could have a devastating physical consequence down the road.
To be fair, the absolute risk of heart problems or stroke remains low. So a panic attack may increase your risk from 1 to 3 or 4 percent. Still, it really makes you think - if you are having a psychological meltdown, what exactly is it doing to your body?
Sometimes, it is hard to even tell the difference between a panic attack and a heart attack. The symptoms of panic attack might be chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling, sweating or a feeling of choking. The signs of a heart attack might be the same, and the only way to tell the difference is to get checked in a hospital. So, how do you avoid a panic attack in the first place? Sometimes it is easier said than done, given that most of us are at risk of having at least one in our lifetime.
Have any of you experienced a panic attack? What do you think the relationship is between the mind and the body?
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