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Anger Control for Men

Why we get angry — And why uncontrolled anger is a serious health threat

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Don’t have a coronary, dude! Health risks of uncontrolled anger

The problem is that, nowadays, your body’s full-blooded physical response to anger isn’t always so useful. It might have come in handy when our ancestors were trying to club a cave bear to death. But it really doesn’t help much when you’re standing in a line at the DMV.

In fact, uncontrolled anger is worse than useless: It’s bad for you. Several studies have found a link between anger and disease. For instance, a large study of almost 13,000 people found that those who had high levels of anger — but normal blood pressure — were more likely to develop coronary artery disease or have a heart attack. The angriest were three times as likely to have a heart attack as the least angry.

So how does anger turn into disease? Your body’s physical reaction to anger is intended for the short-term — it gives you the immediate boost you need to survive. But if this explosion of hormones is triggered too often, you can suffer long-term effects. Anger’s stress hormones may contribute to arteriosclerosis, the build-up of plaques in the arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes. These hormones may also increase levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which causes inflammation and may also contribute to cardiovascular risk. One 2004 study in Psychosomatic Medicine found that people prone to anger had levels of CRP twice or three times as high as others. Anger can even cause electrical disturbances in the heart rhythm.

Anger has also been linked with depression. People who report being frequently angry are less likely to take care of themselves. They’re more likely to smoke, drink to excess, and eat badly, and they’re less likely to exercise. While it’s hard to say that in these cases anger is the cause, it’s certainly linked with a lot of unhealthy behaviors. Anger can also be an expression of feelings of helplessness or depression.

Controlling your anger

But Spielberger doesn’t want anger to be demonized. It’s not evil. “Anger is a natural, human emotion,” Spielberger says. “There’s nothing abnormal about it.”

He points out that when it’s correctly channeled, anger can be constructive. It can drive people to speak out and solve problems. It’s the impulse behind much great literature and music. The white hot anger of the righteous has often been a powerful, positive force in our world. But the problem is that for every man who uses his anger constructively, there are a dozen brawling knuckleheads who waste their lives making appearances in the local paper’s police blotter.

Since anger is natural, what are we supposed to do with it?

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