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How anger could eventually kill you.

Updated on April 22, 2013

Most people will lose their temper from time to time; it is a natural reaction that allows them to release any build-up of anger and stress. But continual bouts of emotional temper can have an adverse effect on the human body

Some recent research has suggested that frequent bouts of uncontrolled anger can have long term effects in increasing the risks of heart attacks, a weakened immune system and strokes, and one of possible causes for this long term threat to health is the disruption of the brains circuitry brought on by negativity.

The damage that can be inflicted on the body as a result of prolonged anger rages has been well documented, increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure and blood flow to the muscles. The level of glucose rises, as does the hormone adrenalin.

Anger invigorates people. All their senses are enhanced, sharper vision and hearing: increased heartbeat.

These responses are normal and the body will continue to function in its usual way once serenity has been restored. However frequent attacks of anger and rage are the causes of long term risk. Regular anger attacks are believed to inflict long term wear and tear on the heart, the organ most at risk from continual bouts of anger.

It is important to understand the difference between controlling anger and suppressing it.Although the evidence is inconclusive, some research suggests that by bottling up anger and hostility, increases stress and damages the cardiovascular system.There is no problem in a frank “clear the air, get it off your chest” discussion, but if anger is part of an individual’s personality there could be long term health threats.

A major risk factor in causing strokes is atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation causes the heart to beat in an abnormal way by interfering with its electrical activity. In a survey carried out over ten years on a group of men, it was discovered that those men who threw angry temper tantrums for slight reasons were 30 per cent more likely to suffer atrial fibrillation than men with an even tempered disposition.

Anger can also impair the functioning of the respiratory system. Test carried out over an eight year period by Harvard University, indicated than men with high hostility ratings suffered with a decrease in their lung capacity. It is believed stress hormones may increase inflammation of their airways.

A further study by Harvard University has revealed how anger can suppress the immune system. A group of healthy individuals were asked to concentrate on two emotions, anger and compassion. During the experiment the measurement of immunoglobulin (IgA) a key antibody that acts as a protective coating on cells against foreign and dangerous organisms. It was found that a six hour suppression of the immune system was caused by focusing on an angry emotion, while the compassionate emotion caused a considerable increase of IgA antibody. It is believed that a high level of stress related hormones such as cortisol are able to decrease the body’s immunity system and leave it open to infection.

Cortisol is a hormone that has been shown to interfere with provision of cytokines, compounds that can instigate the process of wound healing. Volunteers from an anger management course agreed to have a minor blister inflicted on a forefinger by a slight burn. Over a period of eight days the blisters were checked by medical staff to track the speed of recovery. It was discovered that the angrier of the volunteers had higher levels of cortisol in their blood.

A reasonable degree of anger is acceptable in some cases. Students in Stanford University were asked to take part in a role playing experiment regarding the negotiation of a business proposal. Some of them were given scripts that instructed them to make their business demands in an angry manner. It was found that these students were more likely to make their rivals back down.

So anger can have some benefits. Just don’t overdo it.


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