Anger can cause a heart attack

Anger can cause a heart attack

New research from the University of Sydney shows that burst of intense anger can cause a heart attack.

Our findings confirm what has been suggested in prior studies and anecdotal evidence, even in films — that episodes of intense anger can act as a trigger for a heart attack,” said lead author Dr. Thomas Buckley, Sydney Nursing School, University of Sydney, and researcher at Royal North Shore Hospital.

The data shows that the higher risk of a heart attack isn’t necessarily just while you’re angry — it lasts for two hours after the outburst.” Intense anger raises heart attack risk 8.5 times.

The researchers used a scale from 1-7, and they qualified anger as anything above 5.

They considered intense anger as ‘very angry, body tense, clenching fists or teeth, ready to burst’ up to ‘enraged, out of control, throwing objects’. Anger below 5 on the scale was not linked to an increased risk of heart attack.

The triggers for these burst of intense anger were associated with arguments with family members (29 per cent), argument with others (42 per cent), work anger (14 per cent) and driving anger (14 per cent),” said Dr. Buckley.

The data also revealed that episodes of anxiety can also make you more likely to have heart attack. High levels of anxiety were associated with a 9.5 fold increased risk of triggering a heart attack in the two hours after the anxiety episode. Increased risk following intense anger or anxiety is most likely due to increased heart rate, blood pressure, tightening of blood vessels and increased clotting, all associated with triggering heart attacks,” he added.

The researchers observed patients that suffered heart attacks from Royal North Shore hospital.

Although the incidence of anger-triggered heart attacks is around 2%, of the sample, those people were 8.5 times more likely to have a heart attack within two hours of the emotional episode. So while the absolute risk of any one episode triggering a heart attack is low, this data demonstrates that the danger is very present,” said Buckley.

Our findings highlight the need to consider strategies to protect individuals most at risk during times of acute anger.”

Professor Geoffrey Tofler, senior author of the study believes that there are ways to prevent these episodes of anger.

Potential preventive approaches may be stress reduction training to reduce the frequency and intensity of episodes of anger, or avoiding activities that usually prompt such intense reactions, for instance, avoiding an angry confrontation or activity that provokes intense anxiety, he said.

Additionally, improving general health by minimising other risk factors, such as hypertension, high cholesterol or smoking would also lower risk. For those at high risk, it is possible that medication such as beta-blockers and aspirin taken at the time of a trigger may interrupt the link between the stressor and the heart attack. We are currently recruiting subjects for a study examining this option,” Tofler adds.

Our research suggests that when managing a person with heart disease or in preventing heart disease in others, a person’s frequency of anger and anxiety should also be assessed and be part of helping individuals to take care of themselves. Our message to people is they need to be aware that a burst of severe anger or anxiety could lead to a coronary event, so consider preventative strategies where possible,” Dr Tofler concludes.

The study showing that anger can cause a heart attack was published in the European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care.

Note: None of the information in our website is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. The content on our website is for educational purposes only.

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1. “Keep Calm, Anger Can Trigger a Heart Attack!” The University of Sydney. The University of Sydney, 24 Feb. 2015. Web. 2 Mar. 2015.
2. “Triggering of Acute Coronary Occlusion by Episodes of Anger.” Sage Journals. European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care, 23 Feb. 2015. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.

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