There’s no doubt that too much worrying can take a toll on your mental health. But new research suggests it can tax your physical health, too.
Particularly your heart.
A recent study found that when middle-aged men worry too much, they are at a higher risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, or suffering a stroke in the future. The risk increase was about what would be expected for a heavy drinker.
The study included 1,550 men with an average age of 53 who took part in the Normative Aging Study. None had any major disease at the study’s outset.
Researchers examined and tracked seven biological heart risk factors — blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, body mass index (BMI), blood sugar, and inflammatory markers — every three to five years.
Men who reported higher levels of anxiety had a 10-13 percent greater chance of reaching a high biological risk for heart disease, diabetes, or stroke during the 40-year follow-up period.
The increased risk in anxious men had a more significant number of heart risk factors across ages, even when other known conditions, like heart disease, were controlled.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Anxiety may make people engage in activities or behavior that boost the risk for heart attack and disease. Heavy worriers may be more likely to smoke, drink, eat a poor diet and fail to get adequate exercise.
Thankfully, even if you can’t quit worrying, there are things you can do to help your heart. Eating a healthful diet and getting exercise are two of them. Exercise can actually have a dual effect, helping with both heart health and mental health.
Finding an exercise that you enjoy and find mentally calming is a great place to start. This can come from different forms for different people, so see which modality works best for you. Try to exercise most days of the week