Angry outbursts cause fivefold increase in heart attack risk

Angry outbursts cause fivefold increase in heart attack risk


People who lose their temper are nearly five times more likely to have a heart attack and more than three times more likely to suffer a stroke within two hours of an outburst, researchers have found.


In the first study of its kind, experts found the risk of cardiac arrest increases dramatically among people with existing heart problems who get angry many times a day, although the risk can still increase among those who lose their temper less frequently and have better heart health. To counter the risk, people should be prescribed statins and anti-depressants as well as anger management therapy by doctors who check their levels of rage and frustration.


Harvard School of Public Health looked at thousands of health records to see what effect getting angry had on the risks.


Dr Murray Mittleman suggested doctors should be checking patients' anger levels when making health assessments and prescribe drugs or encourage therapy to reduce the risk. "It is important to recognise that outbursts of anger are associated with higher risk of heart attacks, stroke and arrhythmia," he said. "If clinicians ask patients about their usual levels of anger and find that it is relatively high, they may want to consider suggesting either psychosocial or pharmacologic interventions. "Regular use of statins and beta-blockers are known to lower long-term cardiovascular risk, which in turn lowers the risk from each episode of anger."


He suggested that as well as heart medication, those at risk could be given antidepressants to further reduce the likelihood of dying from a burst of anger.


The study, published in the European Heart Journal, analysed 18 years-worth of data, revealing that the risk of either a a heart attack or stroke increased nearly five times (4.74 per cent) in the two hours after a frustrated outburst. Meanwhile the risk of stroke increased more than three-fold (3.62 per cent), and the risk of ventricular arrhythmia, a potentially life-threatening irregular heartbeat, also rose.


Dr Elizabeth Mostofsky added said: "Although the risk of experiencing an acute cardiovascular event with any single outburst of anger is relatively low, the risk can accumulate for people with frequent episodes of anger. "This is particularly important for people who have higher risk due to other underlying risk factors or those who have already had a heart attack, stroke or diabetes. "For example, a person without many risk factors for cardiovascular disease, who has only one episode of anger per month, has a very small additional risk, but a person with multiple risk factors or a history of heart attack or stroke, and who is frequently angry, has a much higher absolute excess risk accumulated over time."


The study did not directly blame anger as the sole trigger for heart attacks, but suggested it was a contributing factor, and further research is planned to study whether anger can affect the long-term prognosis for heart attack sufferers.


Doireann Maddock, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This research found that peoples risk of heart attack and stroke increased for a short time after they lost their temper. "It's not clear what causes this effect. It may be linked to the physiological changes that anger causes to our bodies, but more research is needed to explore the biology behind this. "The way you cope with anger and stress is also important. Learning how to relax can help you move on from high pressure situations. Many people find that physical activity can help to let off steam after a stressful day."


By Claire Carter, and agencies,


The Telegraph, the 4th of March, 2014.


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