(Health Secrets) Our mothers may have taught us to turn the other cheek, but failing to express the anger that you are feeling may double your risk of heart disease, according to the results of a Swedish study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Swedish study finds strong link between bottled up anger and heart disease
How to avoid a heart attack? Researchers at Stockholm University have conducted a study into the link between pent-up anger and heart disease. They looked at 2755 men in full time employment in Stockholm for a period of three years. None of the subjects had suffered from heart disease when the study began, and their average age was 41.
The subjects were asked how they coped with conflict in the office, and about work related situations that made them angry. The five strategies for coping with work related anger were identified as:
Strategy 1 – Dealing with the issue head on
Strategy 2 – Letting the issue go without mentioning it
Strategy 3 – Walking away from conflict
Strategy 4 – Developing physical symptoms such as a headache or stomach ache
Strategy 5 – Taking the anger home and being in a bad mood there
Other information recorded about the subjects included whether they exercised, smoked or drank alcohol, their body mass index, their blood pressure, and their cholesterol level. The demands of their jobs and the degree of authority they had to make decisions in their job roles were also recorded, along with details of their education.
What did the study show?
National hospital registers and death records were checked to see whether any of the initial 2755 subjects had experienced a heart attack or died from heart disease. It was found that 47 of the original participants had suffered from a heart attack or passed away due to heart disease, and there was a clear link between suppressed anger and these deaths.
The men most at risk of dying from heart disease or having a heart attack were those who stated that they coped with work related anger by using strategy 2, letting go of the issue without mentioning it, or strategy 3, walking away from conflict.
Their risk was seen to be double that of those who employed strategy 1 and dealt with the issue head on. Strategies 4 and 5, developing physical symptoms or taking the anger home, did not seem to have any effect on the risk of heart disease.
How does suppressing anger lead to heart disease?
It is probable that experiencing anger can lead to physiological tension in the body. If the anger, and therefore the tension, is not released by dealing with the problem head on or by finding another outlet for it, it builds up and results in an increase in blood pressure levels. High blood pressure will eventually cause damage to the cardiovascular system, resulting in heart disease or a heart attack.
Deal with anger productively and avoid a heart attack
Finding a means to express your anger in a positive way is crucial to relieve tension and reduce your risk of heart disease. If it is possible to explain your anger to the other person involved, this may help you to get to heart the of the issue and deal with it. These tips will help you in expressing your feelings:
- Be assertive about how you are feeling but not aggressive
- Focus on how the situation makes you feel, not what the person has done wrong
- Be specific about why you are angry and try to write it down to get it straight in your head before you approach the person
- Keep the conversation relevant to the immediate problem without referring to issues in the past
- Once you have expressed how you feel, be prepared to let go of your anger and move forward
Sometimes it’s just not possible to tell the person involved in a situation about your anger, especially if it is someone in a senior position at work. In this case, finding an alternative outlet for your anger can be very beneficial. Many people benefit from physical activity. A situation that made you mad earlier in the day can seem insignificant after a session at the gym, a long walk with the dog, or a relaxing swim.
Try to find someone whom you can trust and talk to them about how you feel, whether it is someone at home or a colleague in a similar situation. Talking about your anger can be as therapeutic as facing the situation head on, especially if you find out you aren’t the only person who feels that way.