Fri. May 31st, 2024

Brief surges in anger could raise people’s risk of suffering a heart attack, new research suggests.

In new findings published on Wednesday, scientists found that humans’ flashes of fury can temporarily damage blood vessels’ ability to dilate properly, which is thought to to be critical in preventing arteries from hardening.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, may help provide more scientific basis for the observed links between anger and heightened risks to the heart.

The study’s lead author Dr. Daichi Shimbo, a cardiologist and co-director of the hypertension center at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, said: “Anger is bad for your blood vessel function. It impairs the function of your arteries, which is linked to future heart attack risk.”

A clear link between negative emotions like anger, sadness and anxiety and an elevated risk for heart attacks and strokes had previously been established by observational studies.

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However, knowledge about how these kinds of emotions provoke bodily changes that lead to cardiovascular events is limited.

Shimbo and a team of researchers took 280 apparently healthy young adults and randomly assigned them to groups tasked with recalling a either anger, anxiety or sadness for eight minutes, while they took various measurements.

There was also a control group asked to maintain a neurtal emotional state that counted out loud for eight minutes.

Scientists took blood samples, tracked their blood pressure, and measured the capacity of their blood vessels

When compared with those in the emotionally neutral group, test subjects who recalled anger-inducing memories saw a diminished ability of their blood vessels to dilate – reduced by over half.

The effect was found to peak 40 minutes after the anger-recall task before function returned to normal.

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Shimbo, who is also a proffessor of medicine at Columbia, said though the effect was temporary it was notable that it resulted from only eight minutes of reflecting on angry feelings, which raises questions about what the cumulative impact anger could have on blood vessels over an extended period.

“We showed that if you get angry once, it impairs your ability to dilate,” said Shimbo.

“But what if you get angry 10,000 times over a lifetime? This chronic insult to your arteries eventually may lead to permanent damage. That’s what we think is going on.”

To Shimbo’s surprise, provoked anxiety and sadness resulted in no statistically significant effects.

“People lump negative emotions into one bucket,” he said. “This tells me that maybe anger, anxiety and sadness are different from each other in how they affect heart risk.”

Dr. Suzanne Arnold, a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and a cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Health System, said the research offered insight on brief periods of anger may be linked to cardiovascular disease.

“This is interesting because it helps to explain something we’ve seen over and over again,” the academic, who was not involved in the study, told the American Heart Foundation.

“There’s plenty of data that have shown acute anger increases the risk for heart attacks, but the mechanism by which that happens is not really understood.”

Arnold noted that the research only involved young adults that had no known cardiovascular disease or risk factors and suggested that an expansion of the study population could provide further vital learnings.

“What does this look like in people who are older and have cardiovascular disease already?” she asked, adding: “You may see more profound effects.”

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