Faster Heart Ageing Associated with Anxiety and Irritability: Study


A recent study has established a correlation between personality traits like anxiety and irritability and early indications of heart aging. Experts suggest that individuals prone to mental health issues may benefit from additional support to reduce the risk of future heart complications. To investigate the relationship between mental health and heart function, researchers led by Queen Mary University of London examined heart scans from 36,309 participants in the UK Biobank. Using a personality questionnaire, personality traits categorized as “neuroticism” – including mood instability, excessive worrying, anxiety, irritability, self-consciousness, and sadness – were evaluated.

The study revealed that a higher inclination towards neurotic personality traits was associated with smaller, less functional ventricles with lower left ventricular mass, increased myocardial fibrosis, and elevated arterial stiffness. These findings were independent of conventional risk factors for heart issues, such as smoking and obesity, and were notably more pronounced in men compared to women.

Published in the European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Imaging, the findings underscore the connection between mental health and cardiovascular well-being and advocate for strategies promoting mental wellness in the broader population. Steffen Petersen, a cardiovascular medicine professor at Queen Mary University of London, remarked, “We recognize the significant correlations between mental health and cardiovascular outcomes, and our study reveals detrimental cardiac changes in individuals exhibiting neurotic personality traits such as anxiety, depression, and excessive worrying. Even after factoring in lifestyle variables like smoking, weight, and age, neurotic traits appear linked to indicators of heart aging.” Professor Petersen indicated that his team’s next objective is to unravel how these personality traits influence heart function and the long-term risk of heart conditions.

James Leiper, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, commented, “We understand that living with a mental health disorder can heighten the risk of heart and circulatory diseases, and this noteworthy research demonstrates that certain personality traits – which may serve as early indicators of mental health conditions – can result in heart changes synonymous with aging.”

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