Can anger cause a heart attack?

Study Notes takes a closer look at recent medical studies, its caveats and what it means for you.
By Alexandra Kimball
Can anger cause a heart attack?

The research

In a study published this year in European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care, 313 patients treated for acute coronary blockage were interviewed about their activities in the 48 hours before the onset of symptoms. Patients who experienced intense anger (defined as five or above on an anger scale of one to seven) in this two-day period were almost nine times more likely to have a heart attack than those who rated their anger at four or below.

What it means

Cardiologists believe intense anger can increase the risk of heart attack by raising heart rate and blood pressure, rupturing plaques in coronary arteries.

The caveat

The study also found that anger-induced coronary blockage caused only 2 percent of heart attacks among participants. “Age [over], smoking, obesity and hypertension remain far bigger risk factors for heart attacks,” says Kim Lavoie, from the Canadian Psychological Association in Ottawa. She adds that up to half the patients had pre-existing risk factors or had experienced heart attacks before.


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