Everyone gets angry occasionally, but some people are more prone to anger than others. They may have a “short fuse” and blow-up over small things, or they may be chronically irritable. However it is manifested, anger that is not dealt with in a healthy way is dangerous for the angry person and for those close to him or her. On the other hand, well-managed anger can be a useful emotion that motivates you to make positive changes.
Anger is a powerful emotion. It triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. Other emotions that trigger this response include fear, excitement and anxiety. The adrenal glands flood the body with stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
The brain shunts blood away from the gut and towards the muscles, in preparation for physical exertion. Heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increase, body temperature rises and skin perspires. The mind is sharpened and focused, ready to react.
The constant flood of stress chemicals and associated metabolic changes that go with recurrent unmanaged anger can eventually cause harm to many different systems of the body.
The short and long-term health problems that have been linked to unmanaged anger include:
Digestive problems, such as abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome
High blood pressure
Skin problems, such as eczema
Data also shows that chronically angry or hostile adults, with no prior history of heart trouble might be 19% more likely than their more easygoing peers to develop heart disease. Some doctors now consider anger a risk factor for heart disease that can be modified, just as people can lower their cholesterol or blood pressure. (1)
Another study points to data that hostility is associated with poorer pulmonary function and more rapid rates of decline among older men. (2)
At times anger can be very difficult to deal with, but managing it is definitely possible. People will find certain strategies for managing anger will work better for them than others.
Ways to control your emotions include:
Positive coping strategies, such as distracting yourself, meditation, and taking time out
Looking for and analyzing the underlying cause of the anger
Planning strategies to solve these problems, without being angry and frustrated about it
Trying to do vigorous exercise to overcome your anger may actually be harmful to you. A recent study showed that anger or emotional upset while engaging in intense physical exertion can trigger an acute myocardial infarction in all regions of the world, in men and women, and in all age groups. (3)
High anger expression is associated with suppression of our immune system. It was shown that simply recalling an angry experience from their past caused a 6-hour dip in levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A, the cells’ first line of defense against infection. (4)
Even the beneficial effect of exercise can be negated, and even overwhelmed by the detrimental influence of anger.
RELAX! MEDITATE! BREATHE!
DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY!
If this does not help, look for counseling, seek help from a medical professional. Don't stay angry with yourself or with anyone else, because it could have a negative effect on your long-term health.
To discuss these or other health related issues, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Koganski at 215-750-7000, www.newtowninternalmedicine.com
1) Edmondson D, et al. Emotional triggers in myocardial infarction: do they matter? Eur Heart J. 2013;34:300–306.
2) Kubzansky LD, et al, Angry breathing: a prospective study of hostility and lung function in the Normative Aging Study. Thorax. 2006 Oct; 61(10): 863–868.
3) Smyth A, et al. Physical activity and anger or emotional upset as triggers of acute myocardial infarction: the INTERHEART study [published online October 11, 2016]. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.116.023142.
4) Romero-Martínez A, et al. High Immunoglobulin A Levels Mediate the Association Between High Anger Expression and Low Somatic Symptoms in Intimate Partner Violence Perpetrators. J Interpers Violence. 2016 Feb;31(4):732-42.