MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Kim Lavoie, Ph.D.
CIHR New Investigator, FRQS Chercheur-Boursier Co-Director,
Montreal Behavioural Medicine Centre
Professor, Dept. of Psychology University of Quebec at Montreal Director, Chronic Disease Research Division, Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montreal Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal
Associate Researcher, Montreal Heart Institute
Chair, Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine Section
Canadian Psychological Association
Medical Research: What is the background for this study?
Dr. Lavoie: We were interested in looking at whether rates of ischemia in men and women were different as a function of whether or not you had pre-existing heart disease (we would expect those with existing heart disease to have more ischemia because it’s a major marker of disease) or a comorbid anxiety or mood disorder (we expected anx/mood disorders would be associated with higher rates of ischemia because they reflect clinical levels of chronic stress, which has been linked to higher rates of ischemia in previous studies).
Medical Research: What are the main findings?
Dr. Lavoie: Overall, we found that men have higher rates of ischemia than women, and that anxiety or mood disorders overall aren’t associated with higher or lower risk of ischemia (in those with or without previously diagnosed heart disease).
HOWEVER, what we did find that was interesting and perhaps new, was that if you looked within women, those without previously diagnosed heart disease AND anxiety disorders (which including things like panic disorder and generalized anxiety – panickers and worriers) had higher rates of ischemia compared to those without anxiety disorders. This suggests higher rates of ischemia among women without heart disease, which seems counter-intuitive because you would expect those WITH disease to have more ischemia. The fact that anxiety disorders were present in those without previously diagnosed heart disease – and they were the ones with more ischemia, suggests that these women likely HAD heart disease that just hadn’t been diagnosed up yet, and that the reason might have been because of their anxiety disorder, which can mask many symptoms of heart disease because many of them overlap (e.g., fatigue, decreased energy, heart palpitations, sweating, chest discomfort, hyperventilation, and fear/worry). This could lead physicians to misinterpret symptoms of real heart disease as those of anxiety – but this only appears to be the case in women according to our study, suggesting a possible sex/gender bias here.