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Feeling angry at work may harm your heart

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New York — Workers who experience recurring feelings of anger may have a higher risk of developing heart disease, results of a recent study show.

Researchers randomly placed 280 healthy adults into four groups. Two of the groups were asked to talk about individual experiences that evoked feelings of anger or anxiety. A third group read aloud statements designed to elicit sadness. A control group counted numbers aloud to induce an emotionally neutral state.

Blood flow measures were taken from participants’ dominant arm before the task and at four separate intervals afterward.

The blood vessels of the participants in the “anger” group were significantly less able to dilate. The researchers say previous studies have shown that impaired blood vessel dilation is a precursor to atherosclerosis, which develops as cholesterol, fat and other substances in the blood form plaque and cause the arteries to narrow. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke. 

“If you’re a person who gets angry all the time, you’re having chronic injuries to your blood vessels,” lead study author Daichi Shimbo, a cardiologist at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, said in a press release. “It’s these chronic injuries over time that may eventually cause irreversible effects on vascular health and eventually increase your heart disease risk.”

For workers who regularly experience anger, the researchers recommend activities such as reading self-help books, exercising, practicing yoga and deep breathing, and undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy.

The study was published online in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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