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Mar 03, 2014 10:26 PM EST

Angry Outbursts May Trigger Heart Attack, Stroke


People with a hot temper, or experience severe anger outbursts, may have an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke, according to a recent study CNN reported.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston found that people who experienced anger outburst are at an increased risk for cardiovascular events in the two hours following the outbursts compared to those who remained calm, CNN reported.

"The relative risk was similar for people who had known pre-existing heart disease and those who didn't," Dr. Murray A. Mittleman, senior study author and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told CNN. "A person with pre-existing heart disease or cardiovascular disease, the absolute risk they are incurring is much greater than (that of) a person without cardiovascular disease or risk factors."

Researchers found that within two hours of an anger outburst the risk of a heart attack increased by nearly five-fold and risk of stroke increased more than three-fold.

"This is particularly important for people who have higher risk due to other underlying risk factors, or those who have already had a heart attack, stroke or diabetes," researcher Elizabeth Mostofsky said in a statement. 

Researchers designed the study so that each patient was compared to his or her own baseline risk.

They calculated that one extra heart attack per 10,000 people per year could be expected among people with low cardiovascular risk who were angry only once a month. However, the risk increased to an extra four per 10,000 people with a high cardiovascular risk. 

"Anger causes our heart rate to increase through the sympathetic nervous system and causes our stress hormones to become elevated (the fight or flight mechanism)," Dr. Mariell Jessup, president of the American Heart Association and medical director of the Penn Heart and Vascular Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told CNN. "We breathe faster, all of which may trigger undesirable reactions in our blood pressure or in our arteries."

Mittleman said the best way to lower the risk for a heart attack or stroke during an angry outburst is to lower the overall baseline level of risk - exercise, eat healthy and don't smoke - and then find ways to cope with stress and anger.

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