Rage linked to heart attacks - so chill out, man
SOMETIMES you cannot help getting angry and losing it, but every time you do you are about eight times more likely to get a heart attack, according to a new study.
Royal North Shore Hospital researcher Thomas Buckley said this was the first Australian study to investigate the link between acute emotional triggers and high risk of severe cardiac episodes.
"Our findings confirm what has been suggested in prior studies and anecdotal evidence, even in films. Episodes of intense anger can act as a trigger for a heart attack," Dr Buckley said.
"The data shows that the higher risk of a heart attack isn't necessarily just while you're angry; it lasts for two hours after the outburst."
In the study, 'anger' was qualified as five and above on a 1-7 scale, referring to 'very angry, body tense, clenching fists or teeth, ready to burst', up to 'enraged, out of control, throwing objects'. Anger below this level was not associated with increased risk.
"The triggers for these bursts of intense anger were associated with arguments with family members, 29%, argument with others 42%, work anger, 14% and driving anger, 14%," Dr Buckley said.
"The data also revealed that episodes of anxiety can also make you more likely to have heart attack.
The triggers for these bursts of intense anger were associated with arguments with family members, 29%, argument with others 42%, work anger, 14% and driving anger, 14%.
"High levels of anxiety were associated with a 9.5 fold increased risk of triggering a heart attack in the two hours after the anxiety episode.
"Increased risk following intense anger or anxiety is most likely due to increased heart rate, blood pressure, tightening of blood vessels and increased clotting, all associated with triggering heart attacks."
The study interviewed heart attack patients on what they were doing in the 48 hours prior to their attack.
"Although the incidence of anger-triggered heart attacks is around 2%, of the sample, those people were 8.5 times more likely to have a heart attack within two hours of the emotional episode. So while the absolute risk of any one episode triggering a heart attack is low, this data demonstrates the danger is very present," Dr Buckley said.
University of Sydney senior author Geoffrey Tofler said stress reduction training was good way to reduce the frequency and intensity of episodes of anger. He also said it people should avoid situations that made them angry and anxious.
Being in the present
GRAFTON School of Yoga teacher and owner Loni Wilson says the best thing to avoid anxiety and anger is having a present mindset.
"It's about being in the moment. We tend to be in the future or in the past," Ms Wilson said.
"If we are trying to be in the moment, we don't experience emotions like anger because we are present.
"When you do the practice you focus very much on your breathing, which gives you more presence and slows everything down."
Ms Wilson teaches Satyananda Yoga, a general yoga that focuses on physical, breathing practices, meditation, and relaxation.
If we are trying to be in the moment, we don't experience emotions like anger because we are present.
She recommends focusing on your breathing for five minutes to slow you down and make you present.
"Try it yourself. Close your eyes and notice your breathing for five minutes. It will put you in a calmer state of mind."
Ms Wilson said people had to realise anger was still a human emotion and should not be bottled up; you have to let it out.
Yoga gave you more awareness of your emnotional state, and gave you space so you know what is going on with yourself.
Ms Wilson said the most popular part of the class was the 15 to 25-minute deep relaxation at the end, where some students drift in and out of sleep.
Top 10 ways to deal with anger
- Let it happen. Anger is a healthy emotion and needs to be expressed. Acknowledging it is the first step toward resolving what's bothering you.
- A great outlet to reduce tension is physical activity; use your anger as fuel for a healthier lifestyle.
- Delay your reaction. If you're in a situation where dealing with your anger immediately isn't an option, inhale deeply. As you exhale, count to 10 or repeat a phrase that helps you relax.
- If you turn your attention elsewhere, it will help you focus on the present moment and prioritise your emotions. Think of a pleasant memory, read a book, find your happy place.
- Don't play the victim. The worst thing you can do is blame the entire universe for your problems.
- Find a safe haven. This can be a room in your home that's just for you or a piece of the forest you've claimed as your own.
- Find someone trustworthy to talk to when you're having a frustrating day. Even if they don't offer specific advice, the simple act of sharing what's bothering you might help you find a solution.
- Listen to music
- Make a list of all the things that make you angry and then rate each item from one to five.
- Do something relaxing. Reconnect with the things you love to do.