Linda Lewis Griffith

Learning to manage your anger can help decrease the risk of a heart attack

Research suggests that anger can be bad for your heart. Managing those emotions can help reduce the risk of a heart attack.
Research suggests that anger can be bad for your heart. Managing those emotions can help reduce the risk of a heart attack.

We’ve all heard that intense anger is bad for your heart. New research offers evidence that it’s true.

A study appearing in the October 11, 2016, issue of the journal Circulation looked at 12,000 first-time heart attack patients in 52 countries. It found that men and women who reported experiencing intense emotions such as anger were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack within an hour after the distress than when they weren’t emotionally distraught.

If anger was combined with intense physical activity, the heart attack risk increased to three times the normal rate.

Other factors that increased heart attack risk were ecological events such as earthquakes and viewing stressful sporting events.

The findings were similar for both males and females in all age groups across the globe, regardless of whether subjects smoked, had diabetes, suffered from depression, were obese or experienced intense levels of stress.

Researchers explained that physical exertion and negative emotions create physical changes in the heart, such as increased blood pressure, constriction of blood vessels and rapid heartbeat. These can cause already vulnerable fatty plaques lining the artery walls to rupture, thereby triggering a heart attack.

Of course, emotional stress is a common occurrence. Fortunately, not every argument leads to a heart attack. But those with pre-existing cardiac conditions should learn safe ways to deal with their anger.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit

How to keep anger under control:

  • Avoid topics that make you mad. Never discuss politics. In social settings stick to pleasant, neutral subjects that everyone can agree on.
  • Count to 10 before you speak. Think about what you want to say. Sometimes saying nothing is a good option.
  • Take a timeout. If you start to feel hot under the collar, leave the room. Work in the yard or sit quietly by yourself until you’ve regained your composure.
  • Exercise regularly. Physical exercise is a great way to let off steam. Shoot hoops or go for a long run when you feel anger welling up inside you.
  • Identify possible solutions. Anger can be fueled by a sense of helplessness. Analyze your unique situation to discover options you previously overlooked.
  • Let go of grudges. Grudges are anger that you cling to for years. Forgive both the offender and yourself.
  • Learn how to relax. Close your eyes. Shake out your hands. Inhale and exhale to the count of five.
  • Keep things in perspective. Tell yourself it’s no big deal. You’ve handled problems before. This one will eventually pass.
  • Get a massage. Physical touch calms frazzled nerves and releases knotted muscles.
  • Seek help. Talk to a professional if anger is a chronic problem. You’ll learn strategies to improve both your outlook and your health.
  • Feel the love. Welcome every member of your support system. Know they’re all on your side.