Objective: The aims of this review article are to present psychophysiological and behavioral pathways for the involvement of worry and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) upon cardiovascular function. The review will focus on persons with and without coronary heart disease (CHD), and encompass etiological and prognostic studies. Methods: Articles (1975-2011) reporting on GAD or worry affecting CHD prognosis or cardiovascular function were found using MEDLINE, EMBASE, SCOPUS and PsychINFO database searches, and extracted to form a narrative review. Results: Available evidence in experimental and observational studies in CHD free samples consistently showed that worry was associated with diminished heart rate variability (HRV) and elevated heart rate. Worry and GAD were commonly associated with blood pressure and diagnosed hypertension or medication use in both disease-free and established CHD populations. No evidence was found to support worry being beneficial to cardiovascular function or conducive to health promoting behaviors. The literature indicated that measures of worry were associated with fatal and nonfatal CHD in seven etiological studies of initially disease-free individuals; however, females were underrepresented. Three studies reported that GAD was associated with poorer prognosis in establish CHD, independent of depression. The median GAD prevalence was 10.4% in 3266 patients across 15 studies, suggesting that GAD is marginally less common in CHD samples than is depression. Conclusions: A growing literature highlights the association between worry and development of CHD. The association between worry, GAD and CHD risk factors (e.g. blood pressure), and HRV are leading mechanisms of cardiopathogenesis that may affect cardiovascular function. Findings regarding worry and GAD in established CHD are less clear.
- anxiety disorders
- heart diseases