How Anger Hurts Your Heart
Yellers, ragers, and door slammers beware -- frequent high levels of anger have now been linked to heart disease.
Emotions and the Heart
According to an analysis of findings from 44 studies published last year in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, evidence supports the link between emotions and heart disease. To be specific, anger and hostility are significantly associated with more heart problems in initially healthy people, as well as a worse outcome for patients already diagnosed with heart disease.
The same study also showed that chronically angry or hostile adults with no history of heart trouble might be 19% more likely than their more placid peers to develop heart disease. The researchers found that anger and hostility seemed to do more harm to men's hearts than women's. Among patients already diagnosed with heart disease, those with angry or hostile temperaments were 24% more likely than other heart patients to have a poor prognosis.
In light of such findings, some doctors now consider anger a heart disease risk factor that can be modified, just as people can lower their cholesterol or blood pressure. "We're really good at treating heart attacks, but we're not that good at preventing them," says Holly S. Andersen, MD, cardiologist and director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. "Stress is not as easy to measure as your cholesterol level or your blood pressure, which are clearly objective. But it's really important that physicians start taking care of the whole person -- including their moods and their lives -- because it matters." The bottom line: "A change of mind can lead to a change of heart," Kiffer says.
Coping With Anger
Got a hair-trigger temper? Counseling and anger management might help in the long term, but what can you do for a quick fix?
Recognizing signs that you're getting angry and shifting your frame of mind will help, says Wayne Sotile, PhD, author of Thriving With Heart Disease. The next time you feel your anger -- and heart rate -- rising, try these coping statements to get a grip fast:
- "I can't accomplish anything by blaming other people, even if they are responsible for the problem. I'll try another angle."
- "Will this matter five years from now? (Five hours? Five minutes?)"
- "If I'm still angry about this tomorrow, I'll deal with it then. But for now, I'm just going to cool off."
- "Acting angry is not the same as showing that I care."