How attitudes and emotional states affect the heart.
Your lover is cheating on you. Your job has just been relocated to Taiwan. Your brother wants to borrow another grand. And to top it off, your cat's been scratching your antique divan. It doesn't help at this point for your doctor to tell you that hostility is bad for your heart.
By Gretchen Rubin
I'm a real gold-star junkie. One of my worst qualities is my insatiable need for credit; I always want the recognition, the praise, that gold star stuck on my homework. Recently, I was grumbling to my mother about the fact that some extraordinarily praiseworthy effort on my part had gone unremarked upon. My mother wisely responded, "Most people probably don't get the appreciation they deserve." That's right, I realized — for instance, my mother herself! I certainly don't give her...
But along with the warnings, finally comes a little good news. Researchers reported in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings that hostile people not only are more likely to fall prey to heart disease, but also are more likely to benefit from treatment.
The research linking anger to heart problems has a long history that goes back to at least the 1960s, when California cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman first coined the term "type A" to describe edgy, impatient people and showed that these people were more likely to have heart attacks.
But anger isn't the only kind of unhappiness that can harm the heart. Researchers in Norway discovered that patients with congestive heart failure who also suffered from severe depression were four times more likely to die within two years of treatment than patients who weren't depressed.
The study, published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine last November, included 119 patients suffering from congestive heart failure. Of the 20 patients who died from cardiac disease during the two-year study, 25% were depressed, compared to the 11.3% who were not depressed.
Knowing that sadness and anger are bad for your health, however, won't do much to make you feel better. That's why the report in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings comes as good news.
Researchers at the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans studied 500 heart-attack victims. They found that 13% had high levels of hostility and unexpressed anger. All the patients underwent a standard 12-week cardiac rehabilitation program, including nutrition counseling, exercise training, and occasional psychosocial counseling.