A recent article (dated tomorrow!) in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology says that anxiety increases the risk of heart attack in men.
Anxiety may increase the risk of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in men by up to 40%, even after controlling for risk factors such as age, education, marital status, fasting glucose levels, body mass index, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, and systolic blood pressure in proportional hazards models, report University of Southern California researchers and quoted by Bloomberg News. An analysis of data on 735 men enrolled in the Normative Aging Study and followed for a mean of 12 years showed that the relationships between anxiety and AMI risk remained significant even after further adjustments for health behaviors (drinking, smoking, and caloric intake), hypertension medications, high cholesterol, diabetes during follow-up, and psychologic variables including depression, type A behavior, hostility, anger, and negative emotions.
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Ha, I knew this all along! All this about reducing smoking, calories, and drink, and what do you have? Another dead duck. We never stop to think that we are not immortal. Unless you unwind, your heart is constantly going to be under the pressure that adrenaline (and its sibling hormones) creates. End result: an MI.
When do men actually unwind? The answer (though not from any reference I could quote) is after their first heart attack.
So, does living longer mean one should curb one’s ambition and prepare to live a life of limited achievements and stress? I think stress is harmful only if it is not welcome. If you feel stress of the kind that causes tension, anxiety and panic, it is bad for you. On the other hand, if you enjoy the challenges of life without losing out on the fun it offers, you would probably live longer and better.
I am, however, not aware of any properly conducted study that compares the longevity of people exposed to healthy versus unhealthy stress.
I have another theory, which will surely be proven in a Level One trial in the next decade in The Lancet: the worst, cold-blooded scoundrels on earth die the last, and long after the departure of those they have tormented all life. Those who cause anxiety probably live longer than those who take it. Conscience causes coronary constriction, if you can forgive this alliterative dose of alleged wisdom!
(Note that the above is merely my hypothesis.)
In case you are not an absolute monster, enjoying life’s challenges rather than merely following the herd and mindlessly aspiring for material goals, is likely to lengthen and enliven your life. It also follows that if you are a pessimistic, inward-looking man you would die earlier than one with a sunny, carefree disposition. When was the last time you smiled, dude?