Even brief anger can damage your blood vessel health

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Recent research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reveals that brief moments of anger, triggered by past memories, can adversely affect the health of our blood vessels.

This finding is significant as it highlights how our emotions can influence critical aspects of our cardiovascular health.

In the past, studies have shown that when our blood vessels don’t relax properly, it can lead to a condition known as atherosclerosis.

This condition, characterized by the buildup of fats, cholesterol, and other substances in and on the artery walls, can significantly increase the risk of heart diseases and strokes.

Dr. Daichi Shimbo, a professor of medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, leads the research. He notes that while it is known that negative emotions can increase the risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks, most studies have focused on anger.

Comparatively, there is less understanding of how emotions like anxiety and sadness impact heart health.

The study involved 280 adults who were randomly assigned to one of four emotional tasks designed to evoke specific feelings.

The tasks included recalling personal memories that triggered anger or anxiety, reading depressing sentences to evoke sadness, or counting to 100, which served as a neutral emotion task.

Researchers monitored the participants’ vascular health by measuring the dilation of blood vessels before and after these emotional tasks.

They found that only the anger-induced tasks led to a significant impairment in blood vessel dilation, which lasted for about 40 minutes after the task.

Interestingly, the tasks meant to induce anxiety and sadness did not show any significant changes in the participants’ vascular health. This suggests that different emotions can have different impacts on our cardiovascular system.

Dr. Shimbo points out that the study is an initial step toward understanding the connection between emotional states and vascular health.

Further research could help identify why such emotional responses impact blood vessel function and determine effective interventions for individuals at increased risk of cardiovascular events.

This research aligns with a broader perspective on the connection between psychological health and heart health, emphasized by the American Heart Association in its 2021 scientific statement on the mind-heart-body connection.

Dr. Glenn Levine, a master clinician and professor at Baylor College of Medicine, noted that intense emotional states like anger or stress are known triggers for severe cardiovascular events.

He highlights that the study elegantly demonstrates how anger can impair the health of the vascular endothelium – a key player in heart disease.

The study, part of the larger “Putative mechanisms Underlying Myocardial infarction onset and Emotions (PUME)” study, was conducted with participants from the community surrounding Columbia University.

The participants were generally young, healthy adults, which limits the applicability of the findings to a broader, possibly less healthy population.

The setting of the study—a controlled environment—also means the findings might differ in real-world scenarios where emotions are evoked more spontaneously.

In conclusion, the research highlights the profound effect emotions, particularly anger, can have on our vascular health and, by extension, our overall heart health.

It underscores the importance of managing emotions to prevent the onset of cardiovascular diseases, paving the way for future studies to explore how emotional well-being can be effectively integrated into strategies for heart disease prevention.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk, and Vitamin K2 could help reduce heart disease risk.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about how to remove plaques that cause heart attacks, and results showing a new way to prevent heart attacks, strokes.

The research findings can be found in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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