Rein In the Rage: Anger and Heart Disease
Experts explore the connection between anger and heart disease, and give tips for getting your anger under control.
Anger and Heart Disease: How to Get Anger Under Control
Anger is intertwined with other problems that may end up harming the heart,
says psychologist Wayne Sotile, PhD. "If you mismanage anger, it's going to
compromise your most intimate relationships," he says. "It's going to
isolate you from others. The likelihood increases that you'll get depressed,
and you're going to cause problems in your life that increase anxiety and
Sotile is director of psychological services for the Wake Forest University
Healthy Exercise and Lifestyle Programs and a special consultant in behavioral
health for the Center for Cardiovascular Health at Carolinas Medical Center in
Counseling and anger management classes can help the chronically angry to
get their deep-seated emotions under control. But you can take more immediate
steps, too, experts say.
First, when you feel the heat rising, figure out how to calm yourself. "You
do this by learning to recognize the signs that your fuse has been lit and
stamping it out before you explode," Sotile writes in his book, Thriving
with Heart Disease.
For example, some experts recommend taking a time out by counting to 10
before responding or by walking away from the situation.
Countering angry thoughts helps, too, Sotile says. "When you're angry,
remind yourself that others are usually doing their best. No one sets out in
the morning with the mission to infuriate you."
He suggests that people keep in mind these "coping statements" to help them
get a grip and avoid blasting someone:
- "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
- "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."
- "Let me ask, rather than tell."
- "I'll listen rather than talk."
- "The fastest way is not necessarily the best way except in a life-or-death
situation, and this is not one of them."
Last, regular exercise provides an outlet for stress and anger, and it cuts
heart disease risk in other ways, too, says Rita Redberg, MD, MSc, a professor
and director of Women's Cardiovascular Services at the University of
California, San Francisco Medical Center. "Physical activity is an excellent
way to reduce your heart disease risk because it reduces stress, anger,
hostility. It also reduces your blood pressure and raises your good cholesterol
and lowers your weight."