Men who frequently feel worried are more likely to develop heart disease and type 2 diabetes compared to men who do not worry, experts have said.
According to the study, anxious feelings can also trigger the development of a stroke amongst men “potentially during young adulthood”.
First author, Dr Lewina Lee said: “While the participants were primarily white men, our findings indicate higher levels of anxiousness or worry among men are linked to biological processes that may give rise to heart disease and metabolic conditions, and these associations may be present much earlier in life than is commonly appreciated – potentially during childhood or young adulthood.”
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Researchers from the American Heart Association examined the wellbeing and cardiovascular health of more than 1,500 males.
During the study, each participant filled in a psychological survey to outline the frequency of their anxious feelings.
Dr Lee said: “Neuroticism is a personality trait characterized by a tendency to interpret situations as threatening, stressful and/or overwhelming.
“Individuals with high levels of neuroticism are prone to experience negative emotions – such as fear, anxiety, sadness and anger – more intensely and more frequently.”
She added: “Worry refers to our attempts at problem-solving around an issue whose future outcome is uncertain and potentially positive or negative.
“Worry can be adaptive, for example, when it leads us to constructive solutions; however, worry can also be unhealthy, especially when it becomes uncontrollable and interferes with our day-to-day functioning.”
Alongside the wellbeing assessment, each participant had a physical examination and blood tests every five years until they passed away or left the trial.
During the check-ups, the team of scientists were assessing the participants’ blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting blood sugar levels and their erythrocyte sedimentation rate.
They discovered that the males with higher neuroticism had significantly more high-risk cardiometabolic risk factors.
Dr Lee said: “Having six or more high-risk cardiometabolic markers suggests that an individual is very likely to develop or has already developed cardiometabolic disease.
“We found that cardiometabolic disease risk increased as men aged, from their 30s into their 80s, irrespective of anxiety levels, while men who had higher levels of anxiety and worry consistently had a higher likelihood of developing cardiometabolic disease over time than those with lower levels of anxiety or worry.”
She added: “It would be important for future studies to evaluate if these associations exist among women, people from diverse racial and ethnic groups, and in more socioeconomically varying samples, and to consider how anxiety may relate to the development of cardiometabolic risk in much younger individuals than those in our study.”
The study can now be accessed in the Journal of the American Heart Association.