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Researchers are discovering just how toxic excessive anger can be. Fiery outbursts can spark serious immediate and long-term health risks, several recent studies show, from sleep disturbances to heart disease. Here’s why you might want to take a few deep breaths rather than losing your cool:

  • Intense anger triggers a rush of adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream. This causes a spike in blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar, which your heart must work harder to control. If you frequently experience intense anger, it can cause long-term damage to the heart due to raised blood pressure and increased blood flow in coronary arteries. Those effects can damage artery linings and lead to plaque buildup, says Redford Williams, MD, a psychology and neuro-science professor at Duke University School of Medicine and coauthor of Anger Kills.
  • When people who are already at risk for heart disease have angry flare-ups, they dramatically increase their risk of a heart attack for two hours following the fit, according to research published in the European Heart Journal in February 2015. Surveying 313 cardiovascular-care patients, researchers found that those who had been feeling angry had an 8.5-times greater chance of a heart attack in the two hours post-outburst than they would under normal, less stressful circumstances.
  • A 2014 meta-analysis published in the European Heart Journal reviewed nine studies of a combined 6,400 patients and found a greater risk for stroke and arrhythmia during the two hours following an angry outbreak.
  • High levels of anger are associated with longer-term health issues, including excessive tobacco use, sleep disturbances, and insomnia, according to several studies, including a 2005 study of nearly 4,700 people published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research.

This article originally appeared as “Seeing Red Can Harm Your Health” in the December 2015 issue of Experience Life.

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