- - Saturday, February 28, 2015

The next time your spouse leaves a mess, a rude driver cuts you off with their car or a co-worker takes credit for your work, think twice before blowing your stack. A new study published in European Heart Journal found that having an episode of intense anger may be associated with an 8.5 times greater risk of having a heart attack for two hours after! And in those with anxiety, it increased to 9.5 times greater risk. Let’s take a look at why we should take to heart the advice “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Intense Anger Increasing the Chances of a Heart Attack

What is a heart attack? The colloquial term for a “myocardial infarction” — when heart muscle dies due to a lack of oxygen. Oxygen deprivation can occur under two circumstances:
1. The oxygen demand exceeds the oxygen supply (e.g., heavy exercise, anger, stress)
2. There is a blockage (e.g., clot, atherosclerosis plaque rupture).

How does intense anger fit into this scenario? Think about the last time we lost our cool. The stress causes a release of hormones that raise our heart rate and blood pressure. Both increase the amount of work done by the heart and, consequently, its oxygen demand.

Experts also speculate that losing our cool can lead to rupture of fatty plaques in those with atherosclerosis. This can result in complete blockage of blood flow through an artery.

How was intense anger defined in this study?
· Body becomes tense
· Fists become clenched
· Feeling like you are going to burst
· Becoming furious
· Out-of-control (e.g. yelling, screaming, throwing objects, hurting someone)

What scenarios sparked the most anger according to the study? Arguments with family members topped the list, followed by arguments with non-family members.

What does this all mean to me? The way we deal with an emotional situation can have a dangerous, and even deadly, effect on our physical state. The two are linked.

What can I do to decrease my risk? Reduce and avoid situations that are stressful or can trigger intense anger. Nothing is worth having a heart attack for. Additionally, find time to balance and fulfill ourselves. Prayer, meditation, reading, playing with a pet, listening to music, going for a walk or run, or savoring a cup of coffee are some great ways to find our inner peace.

In addition, follow the tried and true ways to keep our hearts healthy: staying physically active, eating a balanced heart healthy diet, avoiding (or quitting) smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.

As Benjamin Franklin keenly remarked: “Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.” Especially when it can result in self-inflicted wounds to our heart. And remember, the choices we make today will impact our health tomorrow. Let’s choose wisely!

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