A newly published study confirms what people have suspected for years – that getting very angry is bad for your heart.
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The study, published in February in the European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology, found that extreme anger can trigger heart attacks. The study encourages doctors to look for ways to help patients who are at risk for heart attack to find ways to control stress and anger, along with other risk factors.
Two hours is a key timeframe
The study, which included 313 patients in Sydney, Australia, who were in the hospital because of heart attacks, found that the risk of heart attack is 8.5 times higher in the two hours after an acute episode of anger than during the “usual frequency” patterns of anger. It found that the patients’ levels of anger or anxiety preceding the heart attack were significantly higher at hospitalization for a heart attack than at the same time the day before.
The study determined anger levels by having patients answer a questionnaire that had a seven-point scale, with 1 being “calm,” and 7 as “enraged, out of control, throwing objects, hurting yourself or others.” The study considered a 5 (“very angry, body tense, maybe fists clenched, ready to burst”) as acute anger.
Arguments with family members or others topped the list of events that prompted the subjects’ anger-triggered heart attacks, followed by anger at work or while driving.
Focus on well-being
Cleveland Clinic staff cardiologist Curtis Rimmerman, MD, MBA, who was not involved in the study, commented on its importance in an interview with Time magazine.
“This study is very helpful in many ways because it’s validating to what we already know. Anger is not what we would call a traditional risk factor because it’s so hard to measure,” he said. “It highlights the importance of paying attention to a patient’s well-being.”
Cleveland Clinic heart experts offer these tips on controlling stress and anger in your life:
-Manage your time
-Set realistic goals of what you can accomplish each day
-Take time each day to relax
-Learn relaxation techniques
-Talk to your primary care physician or a stress management professional about strategies to control your stress and anger