Relation of Outbursts of Anger and Risk of Acute Myocardial Infarction, American Journal of Cardiology, May 2013
From the abstract:
"We conducted a case-crossover analysis of 3,886 participants from the multicenter Determinants of Myocardial Infarction Onset Study.That 2.43-fold increased risk is an average. The risk ranged:
The incidence rate of [acute myocardial infarction: AMI] onset was elevated 2.43-fold within 2 hours of an outburst of anger. The association was consistently stronger with increasing anger intensities.
In conclusion, the risk of experiencing AMI was more than twofold greater after outbursts of anger compared with at other times, and greater intensities of anger were associated with greater relative risks."
"The researchers found that with each increment of anger intensity, the risk of heart attack in the next two hours rose. That risk was 1.7 times greater after feeling "moderately angry, so hassled it shows in your voice;" and 2.3 times greater after feeling "very tense, body tense, clenching fists or teeth" and 4.5 times greater after feeling "enraged! lost control, throwing objects, hurting yourself or others.As to the mechanism, Dr. James O'Keefe, a cardiologist at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, said:
The most frequent causes of anger outbursts that participants recalled were family issues, conflicts at work and commuting."
Anger is an emotion that releases the fight-or-flight-response chemicals epinephrine and norepinephrine. ... Those hormones raise our blood pressure, our pulse, constrict blood vessels, make blood platelets stickier (increasing the risk of blood clots).Something that can raise the risk for a heart attack by 4.5-fold is pretty powerful. Compare that to the 1.8-fold increased risk for prostate cancer for eating 2.5 eggs a week from yesterday.
"Contrary to the urban myth that it's best to express anger and get it out there, expressing anger takes a toll on your system and there's nothing really cathartic about it."
"(Anger) serves no purpose other than to corrode the short and long-term health of your heart and blood vessels."
I've read that anger can increase the risk for stroke as well. Probably similar mechanisms. It's not just anger either:
"People prone to angry outbursts or more broadly, who are prone to anxiety, depression or other intense emotions should be aware that this is something that impacts their cardiovascular system."
- Donald Edmondson, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, New York