Showing posts with label heart attack risk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label heart attack risk. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

If this news doesn’t make you blow a gasket…

If you’re one of those who occasionally “hits the roof,” metaphorically or literally, here’s a heart-stopping warning.  A recent medical study confirmed what your friends or family may have already feared: that anger outbursts are potentially deadly to the gasket-buster.  Put another way, rage is the social infraction that leads to myocardial infarction –  a heart attack.

Angry fist


The greater the rage, the greater the heart attack risk


In this study, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, scientists reported that a rage event doubles your likelihood of a heart attack within the next two hours.  They also found that the more intense the outburst, the greater the risk – especially when the explosion gets physical, such as throwing things, hitting others, or even just threatening to hurt others. 

The study, involving nearly four thousand heart attack patients,  showed that, with each measured anger intensity increase, the risk of heart attack in the next two hours rose. These more severe reactions were tied a heart attack risk that was four times more likely within two hours of the outburst. 

The causes of the rage among the subjects varied, with more common causes being tied to a family issue, a conflict at work, or a commuting frustration.  Scientist believe that what causes these kinds of angry outbursts to increase heart attack risks is the epinephrine and norepinephrine “flight or flight” chemicals that surge powerfully during the event.  The chemicals naturally elevate the pulse and blood pressure – conditions often tied to increased heart risk.

The conclusion?  Expressing your anger appears to be just as bad for you as “bottling it up.”  Both responses to anger corrode your coronary health. 


Five tips for managing anger outbursts


To help you avoid angry outbursts that can lead to a heart attack, try these five anger management tips first.


1.  Script a better response. 


Write out a couple of key thoughts that you want to remember at that critical moment – thoughts that give you a big-picture perspective, such as:
  • “In spite of this, I know I love her.”
  • “I’m bigger than this rage, and it won’t control me.”
  • “He’s just a boy, he’s still learning.”
  • “Our relationship is more important than what I’m feeling.”
  • “Only show them the best of who I am.”
This self-talk may feel a bit silly as you’re planning it out, but it works for many people.  Choose a phrase that fits the situations that usually cause you to erupt, then apply them when you feel the anger start to  build. 


2.  Distract yourself.


Do something radically different from the rage confronting you.  Make it something physical, but do it elsewhere.  For example, leave the situation and go splash your face with cold water, or go for a run or bike ride, or sing your favorite song, or shoot some hoops.  Involving your body in a physical action that is not rage-related gives your mind a sudden mental makeover, distracting the rage with something else that feels like an expression of yourself, but doesn’t do yourself or others harm.

Man playing basketball


3.  Get your head in the game.


Are you naturally competitive?  If so, make a game of it, and play to win.  Here’s the game: Plan to make your emotions a kind of competitive sport, and you’re competing against your inner rage.  If you’re into sports, you know that focus and control are essential to winning.  In this game, your goal is to beat the pants off that rage by staying calm: by not letting rage get the better of you.  Without a doubt, if your rage wins out, you lose the game, and a lot more. 


4.  Redirect your feelings. 


Do you have an “accountability partner” – a trusted friend or relative that you can go to for shared do-the-right-thing counsel?  Arrange with that friend to be the one you call when you feel the rage rising up.  When someone or something sets you off, call your friend instead and talk it through with them.  By redirecting your attention away from the person you’re about to unleash your fury at, your rage is likely to be down a few notches already – after all, your accountability partner isn’t the one you’re upset with.  Your friend knows that the shared goal is to change your mood, perhaps with a joke, some words of encouragement, or even some prayer.


5.  Practice meditation or yoga


Unlike the other four tips, meditation and yoga are actions you take to alter your entire outlook on life.  It doesn’t work in the heat of emotional battle, but can stop the battle from beginning by changing your general life attitude and your moods.  If you haven’t experienced the calming effect of this type of regular practice, it may sound silly to you.  But you can look up the supporting science behind it here, here, or here

Why not try it?  At worst, it may not work for you.  At best, you may find that it cultivates more peace and happiness in your life.

For more tips on anger management, check out these 10 tips for handling your anger with your kids, this info-rich guide to understanding and managing anger or, if your anger is associated with adult ADHD, get Six Anger-Management Tips for ADHD Adults. Whatever you do, take action to get your rage under control, or your heart may get the brunt of it.


Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer