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Angry Too Often? New Study Finds It Could Be Bad for Your Heart

Angry Too Often? New Study Finds It Could Be Bad for Your Heart

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Getting angry once in a while is a normal part of the human experience. But flying off the handle into a fit of rage on a regular basis isn’t good for your mental health. But did you know that persistent anger can also wreak havoc on your physical heart health?

A recent study by Shimbo and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center in New York looked at how negative emotions like anger, anxiety and sadness impacts the physiology of our blood vessels.

280 healthy adults performed 8-minute recall tasks that provoked feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, or maintained a neutral emotional state. Blood biomarkers of vascular function were measures at several time points before and after the recall tasks.


The results showed that participants in the anger condition experienced a temporary but significant impairment in endothelial function – the ability of the cells lining our blood vessels to regulate blood flow and pressure. There was a reduction in blood vessel vasodilation (widening) compared to participants in the neutral control group.

The results of this study demonstrated that chronic anger can induce a transient constriction in your blood vessels which could increase strain on your heart and induce future cardiovascular events.

Interestingly, provoking anxiety and sadness did not seem to have the same acute effects on endothelial function.

So how is it that anger can have such a powerful effect over your heart health? It’s believed that the physiological arousal that comes with an anger outburst (i.e., increased heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormones like cortisol) may temporarily impair the function of those important endothelial cells (and anger has also been shown to affect endothelial function in children too). Repeated anger episodes over the long term could plausibly promote inflammation and plaque buildup which can stiffen your arteries.


It’s important to note this was just a one-time lab experiment looking at short-term effects. But it aligns with many previous studies linking anger and hostility to higher long-term risks of heart disease and strokes, even after accounting for other lifestyle factors.

The take-home message? Finding healthy ways to manage and express anger could pay dividends for both your mental and cardiovascular health down the road.

What to do when you’re angry

If you’re prone to frequent anger outbursts and bouts of rage, this may be something you want to get a handle on, whether through therapy, meditation, or other lifestyle adjustments. Managing your anger meter isn’t only about being nicer to the people around you; it’s about you and knowing that it can seriously affect your heart and blood vessels too.

The findings from this study also emphasise why mental health is so intricately linked to physical health and why psychosocial factors need to be part of a holistic approach to preventing heart disease. Other biomarkers like high cholesterol and blood pressure are well-known cardiac risks, but this study adds to the evidence that fiery emotions like anger and hostility may be potent risk factors too when left unchecked.

Take home message

So next time you find yourself “throwing your toys” over something, try to catch yourself in action and take a pause. A few deep breaths, a walk around the block, or just venting to a friend could be doing your body a favour in ways you may not realise. Not only can it help your heart health, but it might also help you shed your reputation as a hot-headed jerk too!

Reference: Shimbo D, Cohen MT, McGoldrick M, Ensari I, Diaz KM, Fu J, Duran AT, Zhao S, Suls JM, Burg MM, Chaplin WF. Translational Research of the Acute Effects of Negative Emotions on Vascular Endothelial Health: Findings From a Randomized Controlled Study. J Am Heart Assoc. 2024 May 7;13(9):e032698. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.123.032698. Epub 2024 May 1. PMID: 38690710.

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