Why letting go of anger is good for your health

Letting go of past grudges is vital to health after scientists found even brief bouts of anger from recalling memories impair blood vessels, raising the risk of a stroke and heart attack.Doctors have long known that when people lose their temper they are at far greater risk of heart problems until they calm down.But until now, it was unclear what was causing the effect.To find out, researchers asked 280 adults to recall a personal memory that made them either angry, anxious or depressed. A control group was asked to count to 100 to induce an emotionally neutral state.The team found that when participants became angry after remembering past experiences, the function of cells lining the blood vessels was negatively impaired for 40 minutes, an effect which is likely to restrict blood flow.In contrast, anxiety and sadness did not trigger the same change in the functioning of the blood vessel lining.“Impaired vascular function is linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke,” said Dr Daichi Shimbo, professor of medicine at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.“We saw that evoking an angered state led to blood vessel dysfunction, though we don’t yet understand what may cause these changes.“Investigation into the underlying links between anger and blood vessel dysfunction may help identify effective intervention targets for people at increased risk of cardiovascular events.”Blood vessels are not just tubes but have an inner lining which controls how relaxed or constricted the vessels are. Anger causes a release of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol and raises blood pressure, but the mechanism behind the effect has been unclear.Previous research has found that the risk of a heart attack increases nearly fivefold and the risk of stroke more than threefold in the two hours after feeling angry.British experts said the experiment showed an effect could be seen even in laboratory settings and therefore in the real world, the problem could be worse and last longer.In the longer term, impairment of blood vessels’ ability to relax may increase the risk of developing chronic narrowed arteries, which may, in turn, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.Commenting on the study, Riyaz Patel, a consultant cardiologist and professor of cardiology at University College London, said: “The findings fit nicely with clinical experience as well as experimental understanding that strong emotions do affect blood pressure, constriction of arteries and heart health.“We know heart attacks happen more commonly in severe emotional states, or heart pump failure occurs after sudden distressing events – including the oft-quoted ‘broken heart’ syndrome.“The mechanisms by which emotion affects the heart have remained elusive as it is difficult to study at the time of the event. The authors here have done well to try and simulate strong emotions in a laboratory setting.“It would have been nice to see a ‘happy’ or opposite state to see if this also evoked a similar response or a protective response.”According to the British Heart Foundation, the overall impact of anger is between one and four additional cardiovascular events per 10,000 people each year.“This study adds nicely to the growing evidence base that mental well-being can affect cardiovascular health, and that intense acute emotional states, such as anger or stress, may lead to cardiovascular events,” said Dr Glenn Levine, professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.“For instance, we know that intense sadness or similar emotions are a common trigger for Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, and events such as earthquakes or even as a fan watching a world soccer match, which provoke stress, may lead to myocardial infarction and/or to arrhythmias.”The research was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2024/05/01/letting-go-of-anger-good-health-stroke-and-heart-attack/

Recommended For You