Anxiety feels horrible in every way possible. But in most cases, it’s not considered dangerous to your physical health.
Except it is, according to a new study published in the journal Sleep.
A specific type of anxiety disorder causes high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.
Psychologists call frequent nightmares that cause distress, prevent a quick return to sleep, and create a fear of going to sleep a nightmare disorder.
It is an anxiety disorder because nightmares are usually related to threats to your safety or survival.
It often, but not always, co-occurs with PTSD, and approximately four percent of Americans are thought to suffer from it.
The researchers recruited 3,876 military veterans who have served since September 2001. 73 percent of them had one or two tours of duty, and their average age by the time of the study was 38. Men made up 78 percent, while 48 percent of them were African American and 48 percent of them were white.
31 percent of the subjects met the conditions for PTSD as diagnosed by the clinical interview designed by the American Psychological Association.
33 percent of the participants reported frequent distressing nightmares, defined as two to three times a week.
29 percent of them had high blood pressure, 6.6 percent had diabetes, six percent had heart problems, 1.2 percent had had heart attacks, 0.7 percent had had strokes, 0.5 percent had atherosclerosis.
When they crunched the numbers, they established that those with frequent nightmares were more likely to have high blood pressure, heart attacks, and heart problems than those without frequent nightmares.
These relationships held even when they excluded PTSD from the results, meaning that frequent nightmares alone without PTSD put the veterans at risk of heart disease.
The reason why frequent distressing nightmares place people at risk of heart disease is unknown, but the researchers did speculate:
1. Such nightmares cause extreme anxiety, with sweats and pounding heartbeats that can contribute to heart disease.
2. When the nightmares are very distressing, they cause anxiety during the day with obsessive thoughts about images from the dreams. This can cause chronic anxiety and thereby heart disease.
3. Such nightmares disrupt sleep and often prevent a quick return to sleep. Many previous studies have linked poor sleep with heart disease.
4. They may cause sufferers to be afraid of going to bed, which leads to sleep deprivation. This has also been linked with heart disease.
But if you have high blood pressure, for whatever reason, do these three exercises to drop it below 120/80 today…
And if high cholesterol is an issue, learn how cutting out one ingredient (which you didn’t even know you were consuming) will bring it back to normal in no time…