That Angry Outburst May Lead To Heart Attack or Stroke
March 4, 2014

That Angry Outburst May Lead To Heart Attack Or Stroke

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

It is known that bouts of anger can raise a person’s stress level and continued stress can lead to other health-related issues such as heart attack and stroke. But a new look at several studies has led researchers to the determination that anger itself can cause stroke or heart attack within a few hours of an outburst.

Dr Murray Mittleman, of Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues found that people who lose their temper are nearly five times more likely to have a heart attack and more than three times more likely to suffer a stroke after an angry outburst.

In this first-of-its-kind study, published in the European Heart Journal, the researchers analyzed 18 years-worth of data and found that cardiac arrest increases significantly among those with existing heart problems who get angry many times throughout the day. Still, the team found a correlation between anger and heart maladies even in those who get angry less frequently and have better heart health.

Dr Mittleman said that statins and anti-depressants should be prescribed to counter the risk, as well, anger management therapy should be offered by doctors to check for a patient’s level of rage and frustration.

"It is important to recognize that outbursts of anger are associated with higher risk of heart attacks, stroke and arrhythmia," he said in a statement to The Telegraph’s Claire Carter. "If clinicians ask patients about their usual levels of anger and find that it is relatively high, they may want to consider suggesting either psychosocial or pharmacologic interventions.

"Regular use of statins and beta-blockers are known to lower long-term cardiovascular risk, which in turn lowers the risk from each episode of anger," he explained.

However, Mittleman and colleagues noted that studies of medications – including beta-blockers and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – have not shown significant benefits, and said that psychological interventions may be of more help.

Redford Williams, MD, of Duke University, told MedPageToday’s Todd Neale that beta-blockers could ease some of the negative consequences of angry outbursts but their side effects may outweigh any benefits they offer. He agreed that psychological interventions may be worth a try.

"Behavioral interventions that train folks to reduce angry outbursts and/or the accompanying physiological arousal could be an effective means of reducing the health damage associated with angry outbursts," said Williams, referring to at least three past studies as proof-of-concept.

"Although the risk of experiencing an acute cardiovascular event with any single outburst of anger is relatively low, the risk can accumulate for people with frequent episodes of anger,” added Dr Elizabeth Mostofsky. "This is particularly important for people who have higher risk due to other underlying risk factors or those who have already had a heart attack, stroke or diabetes.”

While the team found a correlation between anger and risk of heart attack and stroke, they noted that their study did not show that anger can be directly blamed as the sole trigger for these maladies. Instead, it is likely a contributing factor and further research is needed to study whether anger can affect the long-term prognosis for heart attack sufferers.

"This research found that peoples risk of heart attack and stroke increased for a short time after they lost their temper,” Doireann Maddock, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, told Carter. "It's not clear what causes this effect. It may be linked to the physiological changes that anger causes to our bodies, but more research is needed to explore the biology behind this.”

"The way you cope with anger and stress is also important. Learning how to relax can help you move on from high pressure situations. Many people find that physical activity can help to let off steam after a stressful day," she said.