Anger Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Attacks and Strokes, Study Finds

A new study finds that brief episodes of anger can impair blood vessel function, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Researchers induced anger in 280 healthy adults and found that it led to acute impairment of endothelium-dependent vasodilation.

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Salman Khan
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Anger Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Attacks and Strokes, Study Finds

Anger Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Attacks and Strokes, Study Finds

A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reveals that even brief episodes of anger can significantly impair the function of blood vessels, potentially increasing the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems over time. The research sheds light on how intense emotions like anger may contribute to poor heart health.

Why this matters: This study's findings have significant implications for public health, as cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death worldwide. By understanding the emotional triggers that contribute to heart health problems, individuals and healthcare providers can take proactive steps to mitigate risk and improve overall well-being.

The study, part of the larger PUME (Putative Mechanisms Underlying Myocardial Infarction Onset and Emotions) project, involved 280 healthy adults with no history of heart disease. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups designed to evoke specific emotions: anger, anxiety, sadness, or a neutral control. The anger group was asked to recall a frustrating event, with the aim of provoking an angry response.

The researchers found that the provoked anger led to acute impairment of endothelium-dependent vasodilation (EDV), a crucial measure of how wellblood vessels can dilate in response to increased blood flow. This effect was most pronounced about 40 minutes after the anger-inducing task. In contrast, the anxiety and sadness groups did not show significant impacts on EDV.

"Impaired vascular function is linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke," said lead study author Daichi Shimbo, a professor of medicine at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center. "We saw that evoking an angered state led to blood vessel dysfunction, though we don't yet understand what may cause these changes."

The findings add to a growing body of evidence linking psychological well-being and cardiovascular health. Experts say the study highlights the importance of emotional regulation for maintaining healthy blood vessels and reducing heart disease risk.

"This study adds nicely to the growing evidence base that mental well-being can affect cardiovascular health and that intense acute emotional states such as anger or stress may lead to cardiovascular events," noted Glenn Levine, a professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

While the anger-induced impairment in blood vessel function was temporary in this study, the researchers caution that repeated bouts of anger could potentially lead to longer-term damage. More research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms linking specific emotions to cardiovascular health outcomes.

The study's findings underscore the importance of finding healthy ways to manage anger and other intense emotions. Experts advise techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, exercise, and talking through feelings with others. For some, professional anger management interventions may be beneficial. By regulating emotional responses, individuals may be able to reduce their risk of cardiovascular problems over the long term.

Key Takeaways

  • Brief anger episodes can impair blood vessel function, increasing heart attack and stroke risk.
  • Anger-induced impairment was most pronounced 40 minutes after the anger-inducing task.
  • Anxiety and sadness did not show significant impacts on blood vessel function.
  • Repeated bouts of anger could lead to longer-term damage to blood vessels.
  • Managing anger through techniques like deep breathing and meditation can reduce cardiovascular risk.