Researchers from Sydney, Australia, conducted a study involving more than 300 subjects with acute coronary occlusion (Thrombolysis In Myocardial Infarction 0 or 1 at emergency angiography). All of them reported frequency of anger episodes in the 48 h prior to the heart attack. The study was an investigation of consecutive patients suspected of heart attack and confirmed by angiography reports at Royal North Shore hospital.
The study reveals that the risk of a heart attack is 8.5 times higher in the two hours following a burst of intense anger. In the study, ‘anger’ was qualified as 5 and above on a 1-7 scale, referring to ‘very angry, body tense, clenching fists or teeth, ready to burst’, up to ‘enraged, out of control, throwing objects’. Anger below this level was not associated with increased risk.
“Our findings confirm what has been suggested in prior studies and anecdotal evidence, even in films – that episodes of intense anger can act as a trigger for a heart attack,” said lead author Dr Thomas Buckley, Sydney Nursing School, University of Sydney, and researcher at Royal North Shore Hospital.
“The data shows that the higher risk of a heart attack isn’t necessarily just while you’re angry – it lasts for two hours after the outburst.”
The triggers for these burst of intense anger were associated with arguments with family members (29%), argument with others (42%), work anger (14%) and driving anger (14%). The data also revealed that episodes of anxiety can also make you more likely to have heart attack.
Senior author Professor Geoffrey Tofler, Preventive Cardiology, University of Sydney said “Potential preventive approaches may be stress reduction training to reduce the frequency and intensity of episodes of anger, or avoiding activities that usually prompt such intense reactions, for instance, avoiding an angry confrontation or activity that provokes intense anxiety.
“Additionally, improving general health by minimising other risk factors, such as hypertension, high cholesterol or smoking would also lower risk. For those at high risk, it is possible that medication such as beta-blockers and aspirin taken at the time of a trigger may interrupt the link between the stressor and the heart attack. We are currently recruiting subjects for a study examining this option.”
“Our message to people is they need to be aware that a burst of severe anger or anxiety could lead to a coronary event, so consider preventative strategies where possible,” Dr Tofler said.
According to The University of Sydney:
– Each year around 56,000 Australians suffer a heart attack.
– This equates to around 153 heart attacks a day, or one heart attack every 9 minutes.
– Each year, almost 9,300 Australians die of heart attack.
– One in four people who die from a heart attack die within the first hour of their first symptom.
The original study can be accessed here.