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Can anger hurt my heart?

Jack E. Dawson Jr., MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Anger signifies a deeper emotion. It adds significant work to the heart and cardiovascular system by increasing activity in the sympathetic nervous system and adrenaline production to increase pulse, blood pressure and more vigorous beating of the heart muscle. “Sounding off” may be healthy if you can truly let the issues go once you get them off your chest. More commonly, “sounding off” becomes a way of life and the burden of the constant angst eventually produces more chronic chemical effects and is therefore not healthy. Though anger can be short-lived, it can also become chronic and seething, a learned lifestyle. More important is the deeper emotion which lies hidden beneath the growl. Uncovering the deeper emotion and seeking solutions is essential to relieve the overall burden of the anger. Anger ultimately adds to rigid behaviors, elevates blood pressure and pulse, interferes with heart healthy choices, all of which aggravate other risk factors for coronary heart disease. It can be the precipitator of a heart attack. Seeking support to change is a healthy choice.
If you are often angry, your health may be paying consequences you aren’t aware of. Studies have shown that people who are angry more frequently and more intensely are at higher risk for all heart disease events, including heart attack, silent heart attack, and a need for bypass surgery. They are also more likely to die suddenly from a heart-related event. 
Men and people with a “type A” personality are especially at risk. Men are more likely than women to act out their anger when stressed. This may be due to cultural factors and perhaps feeling frustrated that they can’t fix certain situations. In particular, young men who frequently become angry under stress have an increased risk of developing heart disease before the age of 55 (known as “premature heart disease”) and having a heart attack.
Both men and women may exhibit the traits characteristic of a “type A” personality, which is typically described as a go-getting, stressed, short-fused perfectionist. While “type A” personality trait has also been associated with an increased heart disease risk, the latest evidence suggests it is most likely anger or hostility that is responsible for the increased risk of heart disease in this group of people. This is encouraging because while it is difficult to change some personality traits, it is possible to address anger and manage stress so it doesn’t overwhelm you.
If you find you are often angry, seeking out strategies for managing this emotion can bring you a happier day-to-day life and a lower risk of heart disease. Your doctor, therapist, or other qualified medical professional can help you identify techniques for managing your anger that work for you.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Everyone gets angry from time to time. But if life’s little annoyances, like a long line at the grocery store or someone cutting you off on the parkway, can easily set you off on a tirade, it is possible that your anger could be detrimental to your heart health.

Some studies show that those of us with “Type A” personalities (you know who you are) are more likely to develop heart disease. That’s because when you’re angry or hostile, your body releases stress hormones into the blood, causing your heart rate and blood pressure to temporarily rise, making your heart work harder to do its job.

So if “irritable,” “impatient,” or “competitive” are words your friends and family would use to describe you, it might be time to consider a stress management class – for the sake of your loved ones and your own health.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.