Negative feelings can have adverse effects on your cardiovascular health. We know that depression and stress are not good for the health. But what about anger and hostility? In many films we see, anger is classically featured as an emotion that triggers heart attacks. However, research studies over the years have actually failed to provide conclusive evidence to support this. Until now.
Researchers from the University College London, UK performed a meta-analysis of studies that looked at the link between heart disease and the mind states anger and hostility. The studies covered almost 80,000 participants both healthy as well as those with pre-existing coronary heart disease (CHD) in Australasia, Europe, and America.
The results of the meta-analysis show that
The results of the analysis have been published in the most recent issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Other notable findings are:
- The association between hostility and anger and increased CHD risk is stronger in men than in women.
- CHD risk appeared to be mediated through high-risk behaviors, with the association between anger/hostility and CHD becoming no longer significant after full adjustment for behavioral factors such as smoking, physical activity, body-mass index, or socioeconomic status.
The findings indicate that symptoms of anger and hostility should be taken serious when diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease. However, suppression of these negative emotions does not actually lead to prevention but actually to the worsening of the problem.
To reduce the problem, the authors recommend the following:
- Clinicians may consider referring their coronary patients with high levels of anger for behavioral intervention.
- Future research should more often focus on the interplay between negative emotions and emotion-regulation strategies as a determinant of major coronary events.
The authors add that anger is not necessarily bad for the heart because it is a natural emotion that may have some evolutionary significance (e.g. warning signal, self-preservation, protection of the young, etc.). Instead the emotion should be “regulated and used in a socially meaningful and adaptive way.”