Saving Your Heart
Perhaps the most toxic among all negative sentiments is that of anger. When experienced in its most extreme form, anger feels uncontrollable, explosive, and boiling. Anger is an emotion that manifests itself in differing degrees of intensity. Often, poor expression or “repression” of feelings, results in a snowball effect, escalating lower levels of irritability into increasingly toxic degrees of anger and even rage-fueled explosions. Those who are plagued by chronic anger describe their internal state as one that resembles a raging inferno of negativity and even aggression. Whether it appears in the form of ongoing, simmering muscular tension or as a storm of pure rage, anger is too strong an emotion to be held inside without dire consequences to one’s health.
Heart attacks occur most commonly on Monday mornings, a long-recognized link between negative emotion and heart damage. This correlation has recently been held up by rigorous scientific scrutiny. Recent research in the fields of psychology and cardiovascular science confirms that disturbing emotions and heart disease are closely connected. Such prestigious research centers as the Harvard School of Public Health, the Cleveland Clinic, and the Perelman Heart Institute at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, have reached a consensus: chronically high levels of anger raise the risk of serious heart pathology. These findings were reinforced by a 2009 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The study’s conclusion supports what practicing psychologists have observed for decades; people who are chronically ill-tempered, negative, and prone to outbursts are at a significantly higher risk for cardiac distress than those whose temperaments are calmer.
Unfortunately, simply pretending to remain calm may save an angry person from embarrassment, but it won’t save him from the deleterious effects on his health. Medical journals and self-help books are overflowing with studies and anecdotal evidence that demonstrate the danger of swallowing negative feelings. Those who bottle up their emotions are usually the same people who find themselves unwilling or unable to assertively express their needs or dissatisfaction. Often they find themselves caught in a feedback loop of repression and increasing frustration. The implosive force of this cycle poisons the body over time and causes measurable damage to the cardiovascular system.
Happily, those who learn to express their anger productively can reduce their risk of heart disease while improving their quality of life. Learning to express feelings which precede anger –such as helplessness, dissatisfaction — before they escalate, can stem the tide of poisonous emotions, clearing a path for better health and well-being and the prevention of heart disease.