Being angry for just 8 minutes can increase your risk of heart attack

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Some people have heart attacks during moments of anger


Being angry – even for just a few minutes – can alter the way your blood vessels work, which can increase the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes. The finding could explain why some people experience these events during emotional outbursts.

This result comes from a study of young adults who appeared to be in good health. Participants were asked to think about past experiences that made them angry, while various aspects of their circulatory system health were measured. Perhaps unsurprisingly, none of them had a heart attack or stroke during this process, but they did experience health problems. blood ship operation that has been associated with such results.

This suggests that intense emotions may contribute to cardiac events in people who already have health problems, he says. Daichi Shimbo at Columbia University in New York.

Other types of research have suggested that heart attacks may be triggered by intense emotional experiences. For example, one study found that in the hour before a heart attack, people were more than twice as likely to have experienced anger or emotional upset as during the same one-hour period the previous day. But the mechanism behind this remained unclear.

To investigate, Shimbo and his colleagues took 280 volunteers and randomly assigned them to go through one of three different experiences that induce anger, anxiety, or sadness for 8 minutes, or just to count up until the time had elapsed as a comparison, while several measurements were taken.

This included taking blood samples, observing blood pressure and measuring the ability of blood vessels to dilate in response to a standard procedure in which blood flow to the arm is restricted and then allowed to return.

This dilation capacity is thought to be a measure of the health of the blood vessels, with lower dilation capacity being associated with a higher chance of heart attacks.

In the study, people who were asked to think and talk about a recent experience that made them angry experienced a drop in the ability of their blood vessels to dilate that lasted about 40 minutes.

“It is possible that [these effects] occur routinely throughout the day or week with potentially long-term consequences,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “Repeated episodes of a negative emotion can affect cardiovascular physiology over time, causing…irreversible damage.”

The blood vessel response did not occur for the people assigned to the anxiety or experiences of sadness, or for those in the control group. And there was no difference for any of the groups in the other measures.

The effects of anger on blood vessel function coincide with observations that heart attacks occasionally appear to be triggered by intense emotions, says Andrew Steptoe at University College London. However, it’s not necessarily easy for people to stop being angry, he says. “If people have serious problems, there are interventions to manage anger, but it’s very difficult for some of these emotions to change them very well.”

Glenn Levine of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, says: “Although not all of the mechanisms for how psychological states impact cardiovascular health have been elucidated, this study clearly takes us one step closer to defining such mechanisms.”


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