8 Minutes of Anger May Increase Your Heart Attack Risk

Negative emotions including anger, sadness, and anxiety have been shown to negatively impact heart health, and a new study explains how anger specifically may harm cardiovascular health.

A new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association this week, sheds light on how anger can harm cardiovascular health. Researchers found that brief episodes of anger can prevent the blood vessels from properly dilating — which is necessary for regular blood flow — potentially leading to atherosclerosis (a narrowing of the blood vessels) and increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke over time.

To conduct the study, researchers randomly assigned 280 adults to one of four emotional tasks for a period of eight minutes: recalling a personal memory that made them feel angry, recalling a personal memory that triggered anxiety, reading a series of depressing sentences to evoke sadness, or repeatedly counting to 100 to induce an emotionally neutral state.

To determine whether these tasks impacted the participants’ blood vessel dilation, or resulted in cell injury or reduced cell capacity, the researchers examined the cells lining the participants’ blood vessels before the tasks, three minutes after, 40 minutes after, and 100 minutes after.

They found that the emotional task that made them angry caused impaired blood vessel dilation up until 40 minutes after the task, though regular function was restored after that point. The tasks that provoked anxiety and sadness, however, had no significant impact on participants’ blood vessel linings.

“We saw that evoking an angered state led to blood vessel dysfunction, though we don’t yet understand what may cause these changes,” said lead study author Daichi Shimbo, M.D., a professor of medicine at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, in a news release. “Investigation into the underlying links between anger and blood vessel dysfunction may help identify effective intervention targets for people at increased risk of cardiovascular events.”

Previous research has shown that improper blood vessel dilation can lead to atherosclerosis, and atherosclerosis is known to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Growing evidence suggests that mental health and well-being have a significant impact on cardiovascular health, and this study adds to the notion that negative emotional states can increase the risk of cardiovascular events.

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