How to lower your heart rate from anxiety or a panic attack
- You can lower your heart rate from anxiety with regular exercise, deep breathing techniques, and meditation.
- Anxiety can raise your heart rate over time and is associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
- A panic attack often comes with a very high heart rate, and may even feel similar to a heart attack.
- Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.
We all experience some level of anxiety and stress, but anxiety disorders are so overwhelming that it may affect daily life. An estimated 40 million US adults , or 19.1% of the population deal with a type of anxiety disorder.
From excessive fear and worry to a racing heart, pounding chest, and shortness of breath, the symptoms of anxiety can take a toll on your body — especially your heart. With proper interventions, you can learn to regulate your heart rate and reduce the impact that anxiety has on your heart health. Here's how.
Anxiety raises heart rate and is associated with heart disease
Anxiety disorders are associated with tachycardia , or a rapid heart rate, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine . Over time, this can put extra stress on the heart, and increase your risk for heart disease.
For example, a 2010 meta-analysis found that those with anxiety had a 26% increased risk of getting coronary artery disease , which is the most common type of heart disease. According to a 2016 review in Current Psychiatry Reports, anxiety disorders are also associated with heart failure , and poor cardiovascular health overall.
Brian Isaacson, MD, MBA , Program Director of Department of Psychiatry at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, says some studies have also shown that people with anxiety have an increased rate of heart rhythm disturbances, including palpitations and premature beats.
How you can lower heart rate from anxiety
When you're having a panic attack, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America says it's common to experience chest pain and palpitations as a response to your heart rate increasing. In fact, a panic attack is often mistaken for a heart attack .
In people with diagnosed anxiety, Isaacson says that the first step is to treat the underlying anxiety, which can be done through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medications such as antidepressants, or a combination of the two.
In addition to CBT, several other methods may help manage heart rate and palpitations. Not only can these interventions help lower your heart rate at the moment, but they can also teach you how to manage your anxiety over time, potentially reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Get up and get moving
Physical activity and exercise can help you manage anxiety and stress. A 2019 meta-analysis in the journal Depression and Anxiety found that compared to people with anxiety disorders who reported low physical activity, people that self-reported a high level of physical activity were more protected from developing anxiety symptoms.
Isaacson points out that while exercise can help with anxiety, it is also known to lower your resting heart rate , which makes it one of the most important factors for heart health. "Exercise is an important method for managing anxiety, especially if you have cardiac disease, since it provides direct benefit to the cardiovascular system," he says.
Take time to breathe
Participating in relaxation methods such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce anxiety and heart rate.
"Deep breathing helps stimulate the vagus nerve, which causes activity in the nervous system and helps reduce the chemicals that cause the 'fight or flight' response," says Isaacson. "This can lead to a reduction of heart rate and blood pressure, and it may also increase some neurotransmitters that promote a reduced sense of anxiety."
To practice deep breathing, try to find a quiet space and follow these steps, if you can:
- Sit or lay down and close your eyes.
- Slowly inhale through your nose. If you're new to this type of breathing, place your hand on your chest. You will feel it rise as you inhale.
- Exhale slowly through the mouth.
- Repeat this as often as needed.
Practice mindfulness meditation
A small student-led study in 2018 from Michigan Technological University found that after a one-hour meditation session, participants had lower heart rates and a reduction in aortic pulsatile load , which is a formula that determines the amount of change in blood pressure between diastole and systole of each heartbeat, then multiplies this number by heart rate.
Only 14 people were included in the study, and while further research is needed, there is a growing number of studies that are finding mindfulness meditation beneficial for reducing anxiety and improving heart health.
Anxiety can raise your heart rate, which may put you at risk for cardiovascular issues in the future. To calm your anxious heart, try breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation. You can also get up and exercise, since this may help lower your resting heart rate over time.Read the original article on Insider