A Surprising Link to Increased Heart Attack Risk and Prolonged Anger 


A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reported blood vessels’ ability to relax, which is crucial for proper blood flow, can be affected by a brief episode of anger activated by remembering past experiences. According to the researchers, the study was about whether negative emotions like sadness, anger, and anxiety may hurt blood vessel function. Daichi Shimbo, lead author of the study said, “Impaired vascular function is linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke,”  280 healthy adult participants (18 and older) with no cardiovascular disease and non-smokers were randomly chosen for the research from the community surrounding Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.

The participants had to perform four emotional tasks for 8 minutes as follows:

  1. Remembering  a personal memory that made them angry
  2. Remembering a personal memory of anxiety
  3. Reading a series of sadness-evoking depressing sentences
  4. Counting to 100 to come back to an emotionally neutral state.

After that, their blood flow was measured four times, at the baseline (0 minutes), after 3 minutes, after 40 minutes, after 70 minutes and then after 100 minutes and then compared with their blood flow report from the relaxing period through finger probes which can detect if there is any changes in blood flow in arteries.

The findings showed tasks of remembering past events with the potentiality to elicit anger response can cause impairment in blood vessel dilation at the period of 0 minutes to 40 minutes after the task. After 40 minutes it became normal.

Glenn Levine said, “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.” 

Limitation of the study:

According to Shimbo, the participants were young and healthy, “making it unclear whether the results would apply to older adults with other health conditions, who would most likely be taking medications,”. Also, the participants were observed in a healthcare setting instead of real-world situations and last the study only worked on the short-term effects so the result can not be generalized.

Read More: 9 Healthy Ways to Channel Anger and Find Inner Peace

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