Risk for Heart Attack or Stroke Increases After Anger Outburst
Intense emotion is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke, particularly in the first hours after the emotion occurs. While prevention efforts typically focus on more concrete steps like physical exercise, not smoking, and a healthier diet, it’s just as important, if not more so, to tend to your emotional health as well.
A new systematic review involving data on 5,000 heart attacks, 800 strokes, and 300 cases of arrhythmia revealed that not only does anger increase your risk of heart attack, arrhythmia, and stroke, but the risk also rises with frequent anger episodes.
Intense Anger Boosts Heart Attack Risk Five-Fold, Stroke Risk Three-Fold
According to the study, when a person is angry their risk of heart attack increases by nearly five-fold and their risk of stroke goes up more than three-fold in the two hours following an angry outburst (compared to when they are not angry). The risk was even greater among those who had a history of heart problems.
Those most at risk following anger episodes were those with underlying risk factors and those who got angry frequently. As reported by Medical News Today:
How Does Anger Harm Your Heart?
Negative emotions like anger trigger a cascade of physical reactions that extend throughout your body, including increases in heart rate, arterial tension, and blood pressure. Together, these could prompt changes in blood flow that encourage blood clots as well as trigger inflammation.
Letting your anger out explosively may be harmful because it triggers surges in stress hormones and injures blood vessel linings. One study from Washington State University found that people over the age of 50 who express their anger by lashing out are more likely to have calcium deposits in their coronary arteries -- an indication that you’re at a high risk for a heart attack -- than their mellower peers.
That said, simply holding in your anger isn’t the answer either. This has been linked to increases in blood pressure and heart rate. A new study even found that suppressing your anger may triple your risk of having a heart attack.
It’s likely that the abrupt increase in risk of cardiovascular events following anger is also related to the flood of stress hormones your body is exposed to following extreme stress. For instance, adrenaline increases your blood pressure and your heart rate, and it's been suggested it may lead to narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to your heart, or even bind directly to heart cells allowing large amounts of calcium to enter and render the cells temporarily unable to function properly.
“The researchers calculated that the annual rate of heart attack per 10,000 people who were angry only once a month would go up by one among those with low cardiovascular risk, and by four in those with high cardiovascular risk.
However, for those who had five outbursts of anger per day, this figure shoots up to 158 extra heart attacks per 10,000 heart attacks each year for those with low cardiovascular risk, and 657 extra heart attacks for those with high cardiovascular risk.”