Recent research confirms a strong connection between emotional reactions and heart health. Specifically, a study by Mostofsky et al., in the February 2013 edition of the American Journal of Cardiology, identified a link between anger outbursts and heart attack.
The study included interviews over seven years of more than 3,800 patients after hospitalization for acute myocardial infarction (AMI). The researchers asked patients about anger outbursts in the two hours prior to the heart attack, as well as number of outbursts during the previous year. They also asked patients about the intensity of each outburst, having patients rate their intensity on a scale ranging from moderate anger to rage. Of all of the participants, 38% reported anger outbursts in the previous year. In addition to the outbursts themselves, the level or intensity of the anger contributed to the likelihood of a heart attack. The study found that those who experienced moderate anger increased their risk of heart attack by one and one half times within two hours of the outburst, as compared those who were not angry. Those with anger that fell in the middle of the scale were twice as likely to have a heart attack, and those who experienced a rage-type state were over four times more likely.
The researchers also identified differences in those patients taking beta-blockers to reduce blood pressure. Those who regularly used beta-blockers were less susceptible to heart attacks as the result of an anger outburst. This study provides a strong link between emotional experience and heart health, suggesting that those who are at risk for heart attack pay particular attention to managing strong, negative emotional states and avoiding intense anger episodes.