Doing This Makes You 5 Times More Likely to Have a Heart Attack

By on March 6, 2014
We’ve all experienced it: The seething, unshakeable anger that makes us want to lash out at friends or family members. However, doing so now could have disastrous effects on your health, according to a new study published in the European Health Journal.

Written by Dr. Elizabeth Mostofsky, researchers say that those prone to angry outbursts are five times more likely to have a heart attack two hours following an argument. Worse yet, the risk of stroke also triples–as well as other health problems, such as an abnormal heart beat.

However, this all depends on how much a person is prone to angry outbursts.

“Although the risk of experiencing an acute cardiovascular event with any single outburst of anger is relatively low, the risk can accumulate for people with frequent episodes of anger,” says Mostofsky. “This is particularly important for people who have higher risk due to other underlying risk factors or those who have already had a heart attack, stroke or diabetes.”

The study, which was a meta-analysis, was led by Dr. Murray Mittleman, director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Harvard Medical School. Along with his team of researchers, he looked at studies looking at anger and cardiovascular outcomes between January 1966 to June 2013, which included 6119 cases of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke.

Then Mittleman calculated how these two events were related, and found that those who were “frequently angry” faced a five fold risk of cardiovascular events, defined as having five or more episodes of anger per day.

But for those who rarely got angry, their risk was significantly lower.

“It is important to recognise that outbursts of anger are associated with higher risk of heart attacks, stroke and arrhythmia,” says Mittleman. “If clinicians ask patients about their usual levels of anger and find that it is relatively high, they may want to consider suggesting either psychosocial or pharmacologic interventions.”

And as for the reasons why angry outbursts trigger a higher risk of cardiovascular events, Mittleman says any number of theories could be responsible. However, he places his money on the effects of psychological stress, which cause negative changes in a person’s heart rate and blood pressure.

“Psychological stress has been shown to increase heart rate and blood pressure, and vascular resistance,” says Mittleman. “Further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions to prevent cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.”

What You Should Do

If the evidence isn’t clear already, here’s the take home point: Being angry too often could kill. So what’s the best way to control it?

“Anger can be managed–but not by just breathing deeply and saying “Woo-Sah”,”says Robert Chen, author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook and LifeHack contributor. “Take a minute to think back to the last time you were angry. Explore the situation and what your anger is telling you.”

In addition to taking a breather, de-stressing by taking a warm bath or meditating may be enough to take the edge out of a soon-to-be explosive situation, say experts. And, if your anger is really that hard to deal with, seeing a psychologist about it may be the best option for you.

Readers: What else do you do to control your anger?

How to Stop Being
Study: Angry Outbursts More Likely to Lead to Heart

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