The mechanisms underlying the effects of anger on cardiovascular disease are being explored. In one study, the relationship between habitual anger, coping styles, especially expression of anger, and serum lipid concentrations were examined. Habitual expression of anger was measured on four scales: aggression, controlled affect, guilt, and social inhibition. The results showed that the higher the aggression score, the higher the cholesterol level. Conversely, the greater the ability to control anger, the lower the ratio of LDL to HDL. In other words, those who learn to control anger experience a significant reduction in the risk of heart disease, whereas an unfavorable lipid profile is linked to a predominantly aggressive (hostile) style of coping with anger.
Expression of anger also fuels the underlying inflammation that contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and other diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes. Levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) are used as a marker for this sort of inflammation and have been shown to correlate more strongly than cholesterol levels with risk of a heart attack or stroke. In one study, greater anger and severity of depressive symptoms, separately and in combination with hostility, were significantly associated with elevations in CRP. Other mechanisms explaining the link between expression of anger and cardiovascular disease include increased secretion of stress hormones such as cortisol, dysfunction in the lining of the arteries, high blood pressure, and formation of blood clots.
Find out more about this book:What the Drug Companies Won't Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn't Know: The Alternative Treatments That May Change Your Life--and the Prescriptions That Could Harm You