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Anger and heart disease

July 22nd, 2015

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Anger and heart disease

A lot of people ask me whether stress can cause a heart disease and whether anger can cause a heart attack. People who are under stress cannot sleep well and cannot exercise because the body is tired. Some people resort to smoking to release stress, or some eat a lot of food to fight bad moods.

Therefore, people who are stressed become weaker due to the lack of exercise and too much food, which can cause high blood pressure, high blood sugar level and high cholesterol level. Smoking makes it even more likely for the person to have narrowed artery disease.

However, if a person is stressed and take out the stress by exercising, not smoking, not binging, the chance of having the heart disease isn’t much more than a non-stressed person. It only matters that you know when you are stressed.

As for anger, it can cause a heart attack because anger raises you blood pressure instantly, especially in furious people and emotionally unstable people. The heart will beat faster, the blood pressure will go of the roof when you are angry. You can see that angry people are red-faced. Have someone take a photo of you when you are angry and you will see that you look like you are about to eat someone alive. Older people with heart problems should avoid getting angry. Meditation Buddhist way is a really good practice to control your anger.

When anger rises, the body functions funny. Adrenaline is released, making the heart beat faster, the blood pressure rise, and the coronary arteries contract.

A study was done in fully fed cats who were later angered. It was found that food lingered in their stomachs for 3-6 hours longer. This means anger can cause indigestion.

Anger makes the heart unclear. It happens when the person encounters something unpleasant. If the emotion cannot be controlled, anger rises. It can eventually lead to a heart attack. Once anger visits and the person holds on to it (without knowing), it eats the heart up with negative thoughts and bad wishes for the other person, such as hoping for failure and illness to befall the person. Vengeance can also cause stress, which in turn causes narrowed artery disease, and you are just another step closer to death.

By getting angry at someone, it means you allow that person to control your emotions, your sleeping pattern, your appetite, your blood pressure, your health and your well-being. Vengeance, anger and envy will also cause your skin to look dull as you can’t sleep well. Lord Buddha said those who can avoid anger can be happy and free from sorrow.

There are many ways to get over anger, but we neglect to consider them because most of the times we don’t even know we are angry. To name a few ways, you can realize the negative effects of anger, have mercy on the person you are angry with, and think that it was a result of something you’ve done to the person in the past. Do not respond to anger with anger because it will be your loss.

A patient of mine was in his early fifties, with chronic high blood pressure. He was rather plump as he didn’t like to exercise. His blood sugar level had also been high for years, but he never had any treatment before he came to see me for the stabbing pain in his right chest. He felt it often after he fought with his wife, and the pain would last 5-10 minutes. Later, he found out it was because of his anger, because whenever he felt angry, he would feel pain in his chest. He solved the problem by walking away from his wife as soon as it started.

I recommended contrast material injection to see his coronary artery whether it could be treated with balloon angioplasty, but he did not want to, so I gave him medications to help with the problem. Later, he had the symptoms often (not sure if his wife followed him when he walked away?) so he had to come to the hospital. He still refused contrast material injection. He told me that he had hearing problems. If he walked away far enough, he wouldn’t hear his wife, and his anger would fade away! Good to know he realised his own anger.

One day, he was taken to the hospital in the middle of the night due to acute myocardial infarction, heart attack and over an hour of chest pain. He said it happened after a fight with his wife (again!) but when he tried to walk away, she followed him. He got very angry that he was shaking with a red face (according to his children) and suddenly he was caught by a pain in his chest, and his pills couldn’t help.

That time, he spent more days in the hospital because of acute myocardial infarction and he also had heart failure. His heart was only working at 30% and he needed to depend on urine medication and blood pressure medication for days.

After Doppler color test, I did not found any clogging in the heart muscles’ arteries. I assumed that when he got angry, the blood vessels contracted so much that blood did not go to his heart muscles, causing myocardial infarction.

His hearing problem also worsened before he returned home. It could be a side effect of the treatment. I asked him to see an ear specialist, but he refused.

After that, he did not have any chest pain, but his hearing problem grew worse and worse. I had to yell into his ear to make him understand what I said. Every time he came to see me, I ended up with a sore throat! However, I noticed that he was much calmer. His children also said that he no longer fought with his wife. When I asked (well, shouted at) him what his secret was, he answered (shouted back), “It’s easy! My hearing is so bad I can’t hear my wife nag anymore!”

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

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