Anger and Stress Hurt the Heart
Frequent Anger and Stress Damage Your Heart So We Must Learn Methods to Manage Them
I recently received this email from a man in my online anger management class…
‘Dear Dr. John:
Your online anger management class has been extremely helpful to me. The tools you teach are working. My family has seen a big change in my anger. I’m calmer and happier than I used to be. A few months ago, I had a heart attack and nearly died. Your class has shown me that most of my health issues were linked to my anger. Before my heart attack, I had no idea that anger was linked to my physical health issues. I was great at blaming everyone else for my anger. Now, I am taking responsibilty for my moods. Thank you for teaching me new ways of dealing with anger.’
One of the reasons I began my online anger management class was to teach people proven tools to lessen the damage done to the heart by chronic, long-term anger. In recent years, science has proven that chronic stress and anger hurt the brain, the heart and the lungs. So it is essential to learn proven tools to handle anger and stress effectively.
Anger Linked to Heart Disease
In a recent study in the American Academy of Family Physicians, researchers concluded that men and women with high levels of chronic anger and stress are at much higher risk of heart disease. The study found men with high levels of chronic anger and irritation were over one and half times as likely to develop high blood pressure (i.e., at least 140 mmHg systolic or 90 mmHg diastolic). Individuals with chronic high intensity anger were 90% more likely to move from prehypertension to coronary heart disease when compared to people with low intensity anger.
Stress Linked to Heart Disease
Both men and women with long-standing levels of stress had nearly 1.7 times the chance of developing heart disease as compared to those with low to moderate levels of stress. This means people with high levels of chronic stress are almost twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease. However, this is completely preventable – all that needs to be done is practice new ways of relating to stress. The authors suggest that quality stress management and anger management classes are very helpful for reducing stres and anger and ultimately, preventing the unnecessary progression to coronary heart disease.
Negative Emotions In General Are Related to Heart Disease
Three major negative emotional states – depression, anxiety and anger-hostility – were implicated in coronary heart disease 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. Prevention is key. Learning new ways to turn down the intensity and frequency of anger and stress is paramount.
A Predisposition to Negative Emotions
Work by Richard Davidson, a top-notch neuropsychologist, has shown that one of our brain circuits determines how quickly we recover from negative emotions. Rarely do I work with someone who is merely angry, or solely anxious, or only depressed. More frequently, such individuals have a hard time bouncing back from any and all of the major negative emotions (e.g. anger, sadness and anxiety) due to the way in which this brain circuit works in them. While this is not their fault, it is critical for them to learn tools to manage these emotions for the good of their health and for the happiness of their loved ones.
Inevitably, people will become more aware that a predisposition towards negative emotions (e.g. hostility, anger, anxiety and depression) harms the heart and puts individuals at an increased risk of heart disease. Through practicing stress management tools and anger management tools, this risk to our hearts can be greatly diminished.