How Feeling Angry Can Increase Your Risk Of A Heart Attack

There are a number of factors that can influence one's risk of a heart attack. For example, the American Heart Association (AHA) notes that people who smoke or have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, or diabetes are among those who may be more susceptible. This risk may further increase if a person is older; has a family history of heart disease; has a personal history of preeclampsia or early menopause; or has been diagnosed with certain alternate health conditions, such as psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis.

While many of these risk factors are biological in nature, research suggests that our emotions may also have a part to play, primarily anger. Researchers from a 2014 systematic review of nine studies published in the European Heart Journal set out to examine whether anger outbursts could prompt various acute cardiovascular events, including acute myocardial infarction (MI), ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, ventricular arrhythmia, and more. They also assessed how a person's risk level may vary based on the intensity of an outburst or whether they are someone who routinely expresses anger in their daily lives.

Heart attack risk highest for 2 hours after angry outburst

The research findings showed that in the two-hour window following an anger outburst, high-risk patients were at an increased risk for acute myocardial infarction, acute coronary syndromes (ACS), ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, and ventricular arrhythmia. Specifically, BBC News reported that patients were approximately five times more susceptible to heart attack during this period and were over three times more susceptible to stroke.

Some of the studies the researchers examined in their review also looked at the role of outburst severity. While the research was minimal, two studies found a link between ventricular arrhythmia risk and greater degrees of anger, such as feelings of furiousness. A third study found a positive relationship between MI risk and gradual increases in levels of anger.

Some additional studies suggested that how often a person experiences anger on a regular basis may also influence their risk of heart attack. For instance, those who have a generally angry disposition may be less prone to cardiovascular events because the body is accustomed to these sudden increases in physiological stress. However, a person who does not regularly experience anger may be more susceptible.

Some types of anger may be healthy

This is not the first time that researchers have taken a closer look at the connection between anger and cardiovascular events. However, contrary to the 2014 scientific review, some research suggests that specific forms of anger may actually offer us some protection against cardiovascular events. In a 2011 study published in the American Heart Journal, researchers analyzed how different types of anger influenced people's risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). The study team focused on three different types of anger. The first was constructive anger expression, or anger that is expressed towards another person but with the goal of resolving the conflict. The second type was destructive anger justification, which is characterized by blaming and defensiveness. The third kind of anger the researchers looked at was destructive anger rumination, which pertains to grudge-holding and anger that continues to grow as time goes on.

The research findings showed a link between men with high scores of constructive anger expression and reduced rates of coronary heart disease over the course of a decade-long follow-up period. Conversely, higher incident rates of coronary heart disease were seen in those who tested highly for destructive anger justification. All in all, these studies highlight the need for continued exploration into what kinds of medications or behavior modification strategies may be helpful in reducing the risk of anger-related cardiovascular events in high-risk patients.