Can Intense Anger Cause a Heart Attack?

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The effects of intense anger can cause sudden changes in our bodies, and prolonged periods of anxiety or depression can also cause the same effects over time.   Think of it in terms of a 60-mile car trip to the edge of a cliff; whether you get there in one hour by traveling at 60 MPH, or in 60 hours by traveling at 1 MPH, you’re still going over the cliff! Sudden, intense negative feelings such as anger or fear cause our bodies to hit the gas and go from 0 to 100 in fractions of a second.

But did you know that your body also has a very effective braking system?

Acute and intense anger can substantially increase the likelihood of a heart attack according to an Australian study published in the European Heart Journal titled “Acute Cardiovascular Care.

The study carried out by the University of Sydney and the Royal North Shore Hospital, included 313 patients who had a heart attack confirmed by coronary angiography. Those affected assessed the stages of anxiety and anger 48 hours prior to the incident on a seven-point scale. 1 was defined as a being calm, 7 as being extremely angry (enraged, out of control, throwing things and hurting oneself and others). The threshold of acute, intense anger (very angry, tense body, clenched fists, ready to burst) was defined as level 5.

Seven persons – 2.2% – had reached at least level 5 within the two hours before their heart attack. Based on the participants’ usual frequency of anger, the physicians calculated that the relative risk of experiencing heart attack symptoms within two hours of reaching anger level 5 was 8.5 times higher. Lower anger levels or anger occurring more than two hours prior to a heart attack that appeared to be statistically significant. High levels of anxiety (in the upper 10% of the scale) were associated with a 9.5-fold higher risk of triggering a heart attack within two hours.

The study concluded that psychological factors can definitely contribute to the onset of a heart attack. Even if the absolute risk is low but persists over time, the danger should not be ignored and preventive approaches such as stress reduction techniques, and medication should be considered for patients at high risk in, or preceding, these types of situations.

When you consider that anger is often a significant cause of stress in our lives is easy to see why so many of us in today’s society are affected by health issues.

Sometimes we may not even realize that we are angry because the feelings that we normally associate with anger are such constant companions that we simply learn to take them for granted and therein lies the danger to our overall health.

If you think of angry feelings as a small colony of termites busily chewing away at the foundations of a house (your body) it is easy to realize that over time the house will fall into an ever more dangerous state of disrepair, which if left unchecked will cause the structure to gradually disintegrate. In order to prevent this, most homeowners take steps to prevent infestations or eradicate an already established colony. As the owner of your own body, you can also take meaningful and effective action to prevent these negative feelings from taking up residence in causing acute or long-term damage to your health. In most instances, these measures will allow us to stop further damage from occurring, protect us from future damage, and in some cases reverse the effects of years of neglect. In addition to dealing with the physical damage, the techniques learned through the application of targeted therapies also serve to deal with the acquisition and nurture of negative emotions that bring on these negative states of mind and keep from enjoying life to its fullest.

Changing old, established thought patterns that lead to negative emotions or negative perceptions of our circumstances can seem like a daunting task.

But a therapist who is well-versed in the application of well-established and scientifically validated techniques can help you achieve a strong and healthy connection between your mind and body that will protect you from the hazards of living in today’s fast-paced and challenging world. This may sound like science fiction or New Age gobbledygook to laymen but increasing scientific evidence such as that presented in the study mentioned above is consistently establishing strong links between mental states and your body’s various systems.

For example, ever wonder why you tend to eat “comfort foods” with a high caloric and carbohydrate content when you’re upset?

This is a clear example of how a mental state can be your body to perform a behavior is that in the long run can cause harm or yield undesirable effects (stay tuned to learn how managing stress effectively can actually help you lose weight). It seems that science is now catching up with the folk wisdom which has been around for millennia! Imagine the idea that leading a quiet, peaceful life can be beneficial to your overall health! Where science falls short is in guiding us through the process of attaining that peaceful existence. It’s not about avoiding stressors (it has never been) it’s about accurately cataloging the value of each of the stressors we face and giving them just the right amount of importance and attention they deserve in your life.

If you’d like to talk more about your struggle with stress and its effects, you can call us (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult 

Envision Wellness is a private practice that offers psychotherapy, psychological testing, and life coaching in Miami, FL.  Our team has a passion for helping others achieve happy, fulfilling, and change-making lives that make the world a better place.  Each therapist has their areas of expertise.  Not sure who you’d like to work with?  Click here to schedule a free 20-minute phone consult to help you decide.

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