Stroke vs. Anger


A stroke can happen to anyone at any time and simply results from a lack of blood and oxygen flow to the brain, hence the condition’s nickname “brain attack”. Undoubtedly, the worst-case scenario resulting from stroke can be death. However, even many survivors of an episode end up with disastrous long-term issues due to the destruction of brain cells. Major causes of stroke have long been known to be an aneurysm or blood clot due to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, age, and even race. Now, according to recent studies, the emotion of anger can be added on to that list of stroke-causing candidates. But with new information comes new ideas for treatment.

These new reports, released on Tuesday by the European Heart Journal, are now saying that risk of stroke jumps exponentially higher within two hours after an angry outburst. A pool of people who had all, in fact, experienced cardiovascular episodes, were examined for consistency among their individual experiences. Many victims of these illnesses, such as those who suffered stroke, were found to have a commonality. They were experiencing anger or fury at the time of or around the time of their incident. It seems that risk of stroke becomes 3.6 times greater for up to two hours after an angry episode.

However, just experiencing an extreme negative emotion may not be enough to cause a major health issue. According to Dr. Murray Mittleman at the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: “It’s important to bear in mind… the overall risk for people without other risk factors like smoking or high blood pressure is relatively small…” It is the higher risk patients that need to be monitored for levels of anger that could lead to a very difficult situation such as stroke. Predisposition to a cardiovascular condition coupled with multiple angry outbursts over time is a recipe for disaster.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 17 million people die each year from cardiovascular disease such as stroke. While that may be the bad news, there is good news that comes about with this new examination of anger-related stroke: more treatment options. Doctors and scientists now have a task at hand – to take those high-risk patients for stroke and find ways of lowering their impulses for rage and anger. Apparently this can be done through exercise, talking with friends, and the more obvious universal rules, such as no smoking and healthy eating.

The bottom line, according to Dr. Mariell Jessup of the American Heart Association, is that our heart rate increases while experiencing anger: “We breathe faster…[triggering] undesirable reactions in our blood pressure or in our arteries.” Some unfortunate reactions may include blood clots clogging an artery or an artery itself bursting open. With the new studies, released on Tuesday, there is now hope that patients with high-risk conditions will be mindful about managing their anger and even stimulate their own physicians to help them in new and innovative ways, i.e., by supporting their need to control raging emotion and further prevent unwanted stroke.

By Josh Taub


Senior Journal

CBS News


PubMed Health

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