Researchers warn that anger can trigger heart attacks and strokes

In the period following an angry outburst, the risk rises nearly fivefold, while the chances of having a stroke more than triple.

Most at risk are those who regularly lose their temper, along with those who have existing heart disease, a US study says.

While it is already known that individuals with aggressive personalities are at higher risk of heart attack, the new study is the first to suggest an instant effect from an outburst of anger.

According to Dr Elizabeth Mostofsky of the Harvard School of Public Health: “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.

“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 researchers reviewed nine trials carried out between January 1966 and June 2013 in which there were 6,000 heart attacks and other cardiac events, and the links with extreme emotion. The findings were published online this week in the European Heart Journal.

Led by Dr Murray Mittleman, director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Harvard Medical School, the researchers found that in the two hours immediately after an angry outburst, a person’s risk of a heart attack increased nearly five-fold, the risk of stroke increased more than three-fold and the risk of irregular heartbeat also increased compared to times when they were not angry.

The researchers found that the absolute risk increased if people had existing risk factors such as a previous history of cardiovascular problems, and the more frequently they were angry.

They say that their results do not necessarily indicate that anger causes the cardiovascular problems, only that it is associated with them.

Dr Mostofsky said all of the studies found that compared to other times, there was a higher rate of cardiovascular events in the two hours following outbursts of anger.

The researchers said statins and beta-blockers, which lower long-term cardiovascular risk, could reduce the chances.

Dr Mittleman added: “Further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of psycho-social interventions to prevent cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.” 

Doireann Maddock, of the British Heart Foundation, commented: “This research found that people’s risk of heart attack and stroke increased for a short time after they lost their temper. It’s not clear what causes this effect. 

“It may be linked to the physiological changes that anger causes to our bodies, but more research is needed to explore the biology behind this.” (Health Medicine Network) 

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