Tue, 21 May 2024


Anger could be especially bad for your health, scientists say
Published on: Sunday, May 05, 2024
By: ETX Studio, Malay Mail
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Brief episodes of anger impaired blood vessel functioning, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, researchers say. — Picture courtesy of skynesher / Getty Images via ETX Studio
NEW YORK: Negative emotions are generally considered to be harmful to health, but anger seems to be particularly so, according to US researchers, who explain that brief episodes of anger may alter the functioning of blood vessels. This anomaly is, in turn, associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

There are many situations that can cause us to see red, whether at work, on the road, in our relationship, or in our personal lives more generally. But beyond the stress and anxiety such episodes of anger can generate, they could also harm our overall health, according to the latest scientific research on the subject. Scientists in the US looked specifically at the influence of several negative emotions — including anger, sadness and anxiety — on blood vessel function, compared to what can be considered a neutral emotion. The aim was to determine whether these particular feelings could ultimately play a role in certain cardiovascular diseases.

For the purposes of this research, the scientists randomly subjected 280 adults to what they termed an “emotional task,” lasting eight minutes. Each participant was asked to recall a personal memory that had made them angry, a personal memory associated with anxiety, to read a series of depressing phrases associated with sadness, or to repeatedly count up to 100. In the latter case, the researchers expected a neutral emotion. The scientists also analysed the cells lining the participants’ blood vessels, before and after assigning them these specific tasks — at the equivalent of 0 minutes (baseline), then at 3 minutes, then 40 minutes, 70 minutes and 100 minutes after experiencing the task.

Anger could affect heart health

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the findings reveal an alteration in blood vessel dilation linked to memories that trigger episodes of anger. This occurred from 0 to 40 minutes after the “emotional task” was performed. Beyond that point, the anomaly in question was no longer present. This alteration may, in turn, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. In contrast, memories or actions linked to anxiety and sadness did not have the same effect. “We saw that evoking an angered state led to blood vessel dysfunction, though we don’t yet understand what may cause these changes,” says study lead author, Daichi Shimbo, a professor of medicine at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, quoted in a news release.

This is not the first time that researchers have established a link between unhappiness — or negative emotions — and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and events. Research published just over a year ago in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, using data from over 6.5 million people aged between 20 and 39, suggested that people suffering from any kind of mental disorder were 58% and 42% more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than other participants in the research. More recently, American researchers demonstrated that polluted air can cause stress, and by extension increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

The impact of mental health

“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,” says Glenn Levine, M.D., FAHA, writing committee chair of the scientific statement, and master clinician and professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and chief of the cardiology section at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, both in Houston. “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 football match, which provoke stress, may lead to myocardial infarction and/or to arrhythmias.”

One of the researchers’ next objectives will be to determine the mechanisms by which these emotional states, including anger, can have a significant impact on the cardiovascular health of people worldwide. 

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