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The angry beats

July 24th, 2013

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The angry beats

There is a Buddhist teaching that says you should conquer an angry person by not being angry, conquer a bad person by being good, conquer a stingy person by giving and conquer a liar by telling the truth.

Speaking of conquering an angry person, sometimes there really is no need, because anger leads to stress, and stress will conquer the person in no time. When we are stressed out, we can’t sleep. When we can’t sleep, we can’t exercise because our energy will be low (from being used by anger). Some people smoke when they are under stress, or some would overeat to kill stress. It can be concluded that people who are stressed will get physically weaker due to lack of exercise, obesity, high blood pressure, high sugar level and high cholesterol level. Smokers are also at added risks for having narrowed artery.

The question is if a person is under stress but continues to exercise, does not smoke, eats healthy food and keeps the weight in check, is it still unhealthy to be stressed out? The answer is no. It is not healthy !!.

Do not confuse stress with anger. Anger is even more dangerous and it can literally kill us. When we are angry, our blood pressure shoots through the roof (especially in people who are usually moody). The heart beat becomes faster. When we are angry, our face can turn red (ask someone to photograph you when you are extremely angry – you’ll be surprised). Older people or those who are unhealthy should be careful not to get angry.

In angry or stressful moments, our body will function poorly. Adrenaline is released, causing the heart to beat faster and the blood pressure to rise – perhaps to the point that the coronary artery is narrowed and oxygen and blood supply to the heart is reduced. There is a study that took a look at newly fed cats who are angered soon after the meal. It was found that the food was left undigested in the stomach for 3-6 hours longer than usual, meaning that anger can cause indigestion.

 Anger is a burst of emotion that occurs when things don’t go as expected. If we don’t learn how to control our emotions, anger can lead to a heart attack. If we hold on to anger (with or without knowing), we can become vengeful and obsessed with this thought. Negative thoughts lead to stress, which can cause narrowed artery. In other words, anger can kill you, either instantly or in the long run.

When we are angry at someone, what it means is we are letting that person take control of our emotion and health. The more we hate someone, the more that person is in our head and bosses us around, controlling our daily life, health and happiness. So, why give them that power?

People who are always angry lose their radiance because they are unhappy and unhealthy. There are many easy ways to get rid of anger. Unfortunately, a lot of people choose to stay angry. Buddha said that we should be aware of the consequences of anger, and let the feeling go. Bad behavior should never be repaid with anger, as anger is also a bad behavior.

A patient of mine was in his early 50s. His cholesterol level had always been high and he was slightly chubby because he did not like to exercise. His sugar level was also high but had never been treated. He came to see me because he felt stabbing pain in his left chest, especially when he fought with his wife. Each time the pain would last about 5-10 minutes. Soon he learned that the feeling was a result from being angry, so he tried to walk away from his wife when they argued. He did not want to do anything more than taking medicine to treat his heart problem, but the condition became worse. (I assume his wife caught up with him and continued the argument.) He still did not want to undergo a coronary angiogram (color test), and insisted that he could handle this problem by walking away farther from his wife.

One day he was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night due to myocardial infarction. His children told me that he had had a fight with his wife (again) and when he walked away, she followed. He became extremely angry and could not breathe.

That time he had to stay longer in the hospital because his condition was very bad. He also had heart failure and his heart was only working 30% its full capacity. However, color test result showed that there was no clogging in his coronary artery, but it was only mild narrowing of the arteries. That could be the reason why his heart muscles died.

He had previously had hearing problems but they got even worse after being discharged from the hospital following heart attack, possibly due to the condition and the treatment. I told him to seek help from ear doctor but he refused. His ear condition continued to worsen – I had to shout when trying to communicate with him. Strangely, he never felt pain in his chest again. He was noticeably calmer and happier. His children told me that he never fought with his wife again, so I asked him (shouting, of course) how he could control his emotion so well. He shouted back, “Because I can no longer hear my wife nagging!” 

Prof Nithi Mahanonda is consultant cardiologist and interventionist, Perfect Heart Institute.

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