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Anger May Have An Initial Effect On The Arteries That Lead To Heart Attacks



Recent research indicates that brief outbursts of rage may momentarily impair blood vessels’ capacity to expand appropriately, a process thought to be essential in keeping arteries from hardening.

The results, which were released on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, could provide insight into the relationship between anger and the risk of a heart attack.

Lead study author Dr. Daichi Shimbo, a cardiologist and co-director of the hypertension center at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, stated that anger is detrimental to blood vessel function. “It reduces artery function, which is associated with an increased risk of heart attack in the future.”

An increased risk of heart attacks and strokes has been linked to unpleasant emotions such as anger, worry, and despair, according to earlier observational research. However, little is understood about how these feelings cause physiological alterations that result in cardiovascular events.

In the current study, 280 young adults in the neighborhood around Columbia’s medical center who appeared healthy and had no history of heart disease, stroke, or any associated risk factors, major mental health issues, or other chronic illnesses were enrolled.

Participants were encouraged to relax in a lab setting for half an hour. Blood pressure, heart rate, and tests to assess the health of endothelial cells—the cells that line blood vessels inside—were then performed. Atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries, has been linked to endothelial dysfunction and is a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

Past research has demonstrated that endothelial function can be harmed by mental stress. The current study examined the ability of blood vessels to dilate, whether endothelial cells that line the blood vessels were harmed, and whether the blood vessels’ ability to self-heal after experiencing intense, negative emotions.

Following baseline assessments, participants were randomized to one of four tasks. One group was invited to speak out loud about personal experiences that made them angry for a duration of eight minutes. Someone another was asked to recite anxious recollections out loud. The third group was instructed to read aloud lines that made them feel depressed, and the last group was instructed to count out loud in order to maintain their emotional neutrality. There was another silent resting period after these chores.

After completing the tasks, blood pressure and endothelial health assessments were repeated three, forty, seventy, and one hundred minutes later.

After completing the tasks, blood pressure and endothelial health assessments were repeated three, forty, seventy, and one hundred minutes later.

People who recalled angry memories showed a more than half reduction in the dilation of their blood vessels when compared to the emotionally neutral group. After the anger-recall exercise, this effect peaked forty minutes later, and function then restored to normal.

Shimbo noted that while the effect was transient, it’s crucial to remember that it was the consequence of just eight minutes of remembering furious sentiments, which raises concerns about the long-term cumulative effects of anger on blood vessel function.

“We showed that if you get angry once, it impairs your ability to dilate,” said Shimbo, who is also a professor of medicine at Columbia. “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.”

However, there were no statistically significant impacts from provoked anxiety or melancholy, a finding that startled Shimbo.

“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.”

The results clarify why angry outbursts may contribute to cardiovascular disease, according to Dr. Suzanne Arnold, a cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Health System and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.

“This is interesting because it helps to explain something we’ve seen over and over again,” she said. “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.”

The study was restricted to young adults without cardiovascular illness or risk factors, according to Arnold, who was not involved in the research. He indicated that increasing the study population might be the next step.


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