Heart Attacks Linked to Chronic Anger and Depression

High-intensity, chronic anger, anxiety and stress have an adverse impact on your heart and your health. The more often you feel negative emotions, such as anger, irritation and depression, the higher your risk for hypertension and subsequent coronary heart disease. A recent study by the American Academy of Family Physicians is creating a growing awareness that high degree, chronic anger and stress are closely linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Recently, I received this comment on my blog offering free online anger management classes which moved me…

‘John,

I want to let you know that your online anger management course is very helpful to me. These tools to a better life are working. There has been a change in my outlook on life already. I AM EXCITED ABOUT DOING THIS. I want to be a better person and have a healthier life. This past March, I had a massive heart attack and almost left this world. I have realized through your teachings that some of my health issues have to do with my anger. I really did not know that my anger was even associated with or causing me problems – problems not only with my health but in my life. I was always thinking that my anger was someone else’s fault. This past week before I got on to your website, I blew up with my wife and was as mad as I’ve ever been. I was throwing things and saying things that I should not have said. I got mad because she was mad. Thanks to you I’ve realized that anger has a negative effect on my heart. Thank you for teaching me new ways of being. Please keep up the great work.’

This note was flattering and I’m pleased to be able to help men discover new tools to manage their anger. Partly this is due to the fact that I lost my grandfather to a heart attack after he survived five of them.

One of the major points that I’ve been emphasizing for several years now is that chronic, long-term anger has a harmful effect on the heart. The same holds true for ongoing stress. Both long-term stress and anger are harmful on a number of levels.

Anger and Coronary Heart Disease

In a 2015 study published in the American Academy of Family Physicians, researchers concluded that men and women with high levels of chronic anger and stress are much higher risk of developing coronary heart disease. The study found that men with high levels of chronic anger and irritation were 1.7 times as likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure). Individuals older than 50 years qualify as having hypertension if their blood pressure is regularly over 140/90 (i.e., at least 140 mmHg systolic or 90 mmHg diastolic). Individuals with chronic high levels of anger and annoyance were 90% more likely to progress from prehypertensive to coronary heart disease as compared to those with low to moderate levels of anger.

Stress and Coronary Heart Disease

Both men and women with long-standing levels of stress had nearly 1.7 times the chance of developing coronary heart disease as compared to those with low to moderate levels of stress. This means individuals with high levels of chronic stress are nearly twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease! This is entirely preventable by learning new ways of relating to stress and pressure. The authors suggest that high quality stress management and anger management programs are beneficial for preventing the progression from prehypertension to hypertension to coronary heart disease.

Negative Emotions In General Related to Coronary Heart Disease

Three major negative emotional states – depression, anxiety and anger-hostility – were implicated in coronary heart disease in 2005 in a study published in the Psychological Bulletin. These findings indicate that it is more of a general disposition towards negative emotions that may be more critical for the risk of heart disease than any one specific emotion.

A Predisposition to Negative Emotions

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