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Getting angry puts a toll on your heart

By Jamie Lampros, Standard-Examiner Correspondent - | May 12, 2015

Getting angry is bad for your heart. Period. The end.

That’s what a new study confirms.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, found that the risk of having a heart attack is 8.5 times higher in the two hours following an angry outburst than during typical patterns of anger. Arguments with family members or others topped the list, followed by anger while driving or anger at work.

“Emotions such as anger are a physiological stress and can activate our fight or flight response in which stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol speed up your heart rate and breathing,” said Kayleen Wilson, a family nurse practitioner at Ogden Clinic. “Your blood pressure may also rise as these stress hormones can cause vasoconstriction of the blood vessels.”

Cleveland Clinic researcher Jerry Kiffer said while this stress response mobilizes you for emergencies, it might cause harm if activated repeatedly. You get high cortisol and high adrenaline levels and that is the cardiotoxic effect of anger expression.

“It causes wear and tear on the heart and cardiovascular system. Frequent anger may speed up the process of atherosclerosis, in which fatty plaques build up in arteries,” he said. “The heart pumps harder, blood vessels constrict, blood pressure surges, and there are higher levels of glucose in the blood and more fat globules in the blood vessels. All this, scientists believe, can cause damage to artery walls.”

Dr. Johnnie Cook, a family physician at Tanner Clinic, said anger can cause many health problems, including heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, headaches, digestive problems, insomnia, anxiety and depression.

“There is much debate about whether anger is an inborn genetic trait, or a learned habit, the so-called ‘nature vs nurture’ conundrum,” Cook said. “I personally feel nurture has more to do with our sensation and expression of anger. I often see similar patterns in succeeding generations.”

Wilson said different personality types are more prone to anxiety and anger, such as those with a Type A personality verses those with a Type B which are more calm and relaxed and don’t let things bother them as much. She and Cook both said there are several things you can do to control your anger and save your heart, including anger management programs, relaxation techniques, careful communication and a change in environment.

“Make sure you are paying attention to what the other person is saying and pause for a moment and think about what you are going to say before you respond,” Wilson said.

Cook also said grudges, left to fester, can become serious maladies. Like a painful ailment, they can absorb all of our time and attention. He said the Buddha himself on anger said an angry person is ugly and sleeps poorly. Gaining a profit, he turns it into a loss, having done damage with word and deed. A person overwhelmed with anger destroys his wealth. Maddened with anger, he destroys his status. Relatives, friends, and colleagues avoid him. Anger brings loss. Anger inflames the mind. He doesn’t realize that his danger is born from within. An angry person doesn’t know his own benefit. An angry person doesn’t see the Dharma. A man conquered by anger is in a mass of darkness. He takes pleasure in bad deeds as if they were good, but later, when his anger is gone, he suffers as if burned with fire. He is spoiled, blotted out, like fire enveloped in smoke. When anger spreads, when a man becomes angry, he has no shame, no fear of evil, is not respectful in speech. For a person overcome with anger, nothing gives light.

“In summary, control your anger. It can cause many health consequences, including heart attacks, strokes, hypertension and headaches. It can ruin relationships. It makes life less fun,” Cook said. “Patience is a virtue worth increasing in us all. Civility is a seemingly lost art. Kindness begets peace, and forgiveness, whether rendered or received, brings joy.”


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