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For heart health, avoid angry response to this blog

Posted by Dr. Suzanne Koven  May 22, 2013 06:57 AM

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True story: my late mom once lectured a guy who was nearly about to kill her. She warned him that his anger might lead to heart trouble.

She was driving on a country road and this guy started following her. When they reached her driveway, he jumped out of his car, pressed his red face against her window, and then backed away, saying: "Oh, so you're not the one who cut me off!" Mom rolled down her window and yelled after him: "Calm down, mister! Remember, your priority is your arteries!"

According to a study released this week by Harvard Medical School, Mom was right.

This study looked at 4000 people who had heart attacks between 1989 and 1996. Researchers found that people who recalled an episode of rage were twice as likely to have had a heart attack within two hours of the angry outburst as at other times. If the episode involved throwing things or threatening others, the risk was even greater.

These findings contradict the common belief that holding in emotions is bad for your health. It's possible that anger causes some heart attacks through the release of stress hormones that elevate heart rate and blood pressure.

I must admit I have wondered, as I've observed rage on the roads, in restaurants and sporting events, and in the comments sections of news sites and blogs, whether we aren't in the middle of an anger epidemic that may have health consequences.

What do you think?

Feel free to comment.

But be civil.

Remember: your priority is your arteries.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Suzanne Koven, M.D. practices internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She writes a monthly column for the Globe's G Health section and her essays have appeared in the More »


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