- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

DALLAS (AP) — Hotheaded men who explode with anger seem to be at greater risk of having a stroke, research shows. Their risk is even greater than that of men who are simply stressed-out Type A personalities.

Angry women, on the other hand, don’t run as high a risk of having a stroke or heart problems, said a study released yesterday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

The study showed that men who express their anger have a 10 percent greater risk than nonhostile men of developing an atrial fibrillation, a heart flutter that 2 million Americans have. It is non-threatening for many, but it also can increase the risk of stroke.

Men who unleashed their anger were also 20 percent more likely to have died from any cause during the study.

“There has been a perception that you can dissipate the negative health effects of anger by letting anger out instead of bottling it up,” said Dr. Elaine Eaker, lead researcher and president of Eaker Epidemiology Enterprises in Chili, Wis. “But that was not the case in this study.”

It also found that men who are generally hostile and contemptuous of other people are 30 percent more likely to develop the irregular heart rhythm than men with less hostility.

Atrial fibrillation can lead to stroke because the heart’s two upper chambers don’t beat effectively enough to pump out all the blood, allowing it to pool, form clots and increase stroke risk.

Researchers have long known about the link between anger and hostility and heart disease, but this study offers a more definitive association, said Dr. John Osborne, a cardiologist at Baylor University Medical Center in Grapevine, Texas, who was not involved in the study.

“There’s a lot of things we understand about atrial fibrillation … but the question is what triggers it,” Dr. Osborne said. “I think this may give us a better appreciation.”

The research also is significant because, unlike other studies, it was long-term and based on a large group of people, he said.

The study followed 1,769 men and 1,913 women who had no signs of heart disease for 10 years.

Even when other risks — such as other heart problems, high blood pressure, cholesterol and age — were taken into account, certain men still developed irregular heartbeats.

Dr. Osborne said when he first heard about the study, he thought about the old phrase, “Don’t get mad, get even.”

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