by Natalie

Can anxiety and chest pain turn into heart attack?

Q: Are there any recorded cases of anxiety and chest pain developing into a full-blown heart attack??

I was told that my chest pains are just anxiety but now I wonder if it’s possible for it to develop into something far worse.

Thanks so much for your help and for answering my other question about chest pain anxiety.

Related: Panic Self Help Meditation

Eva’s response: 

Thanks for your question! For an anxious person, the fear of having a heart attack during a panic attack is real. So it is normal to think about what you can do in advance to prevent an anxiety-related heart attack and your doctor may even ask you this question when diagnosing panic disorder . The little-known connection between anxiety and heart disease is worth spending some time on.

Anxiety can cause various physical symptoms, including nausea, sweaty palms, heart racing, shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, dizziness, headaches and muscle tension among others. Many of these are ‘symptoms’ that bring about a visit to your doctor, who then rules out the possibility of a medical condition causing these symptoms.

Generally, chest pains caused by anxiety cannot turn into a heart attack.

Why? Because while chest pain caused by anxiety involves the sympathetic nervous system, a heart attack involves the cardiovascular system.

Two separate systems within the body. So while one system can affect the other, the anxious energy cannot transmute into heart attack energy.

This can be confusing, and it’s always to get heart symptoms checked. But that’s really to put your mind at ease. If you’ve been told by your doctor that your chest pain is caused by anxiety, believe that advice.

There are things you can do to improve your heart health and anxiety levels. These include cutting back on your caffeine intake and learning how to calm down during an anxiety attack. Taking these steps will improve your sympathetic nervous system as well as your cardiovascular system – win/win!

Note: In men over 50, years of chronic stress coupled with a less-than-healthy diet and lack of exercise can contribute towards cardiovascular disease. However, this is far less common in women under 50. As I mention above, get any chest pain checked by a doctor, especially if it’s heavy, squeezing, crushing or aching, and if that pain spreads to your arm or jaw. 

There are many different types of anxiety disorder, each with its own set of symptoms . Panic attack can be one such symptom – it can include a variety of physical symptoms , including chest pain, heart racing, shortness of breath and feeling as though you are choking. 

This is what I refer to as a ‘symptom’ rather than a sign that you have a heart attack, because anxiety attacks can mimic the symptoms of a much more serious medical issue.

When you have a panic attack , your body goes through a series of physiological changes in an attempt to protect you from danger. This includes increased heart rate and blood pressure . Whenever you experience any sort of anxiety, these two things increase as well. I created an article on self help techniques for panic attacks to assist with that.

However, it’s important to know the difference between a rapid heartbeat caused by exercise and one caused by anxiety. The increase in blood pressure during an anxiety attack can be dangerous for people with heart disease because it causes further stress on the heart .

For this reason, even if you don’t experience chest pain, an increased heart rate and rapid breathing combined with other symptoms should warrant a visit to your doctor.