heart disease, heart diseases, heart attack

New Study Examines How Anger and Stress Affect the Heart

February 25, 2009 01:02 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
A study has found that anger and stress can trigger irregular heart rhythms and potentially cause cardiac arrest.

Effects of Anger on the Heart

Keeping anger and stress bottled up could prove to be fatal in certain people, according to Dr. Rachel Lampert of Yale University.

Researchers already knew that events like earthquakes or a lost World Cup Soccer match could increase rates of death from sudden cardiac arrest, but this study “starts to look at how does this really affect the electrical system of the heart,” Dr. Lampert said in a Reuters article.

Participants in Lampert’s study had heart disease and implantable heart defibrillators, which correct dangerous heart rhythms by sending an electrical shock to the heart. Researchers had patients remember an “angry episode,” while they recorded T-wave alternans, a measurement of the heart’s electrical stability.

Patients were tracked for the next three years to see who experienced a cardiac arrest and needed a shock from their defibrillator. The people most prone to anger had higher T-wave alternans and an increased chance of experiencing an arrhythmia.

“This data suggest that therapies focused on helping patients deal with anger and other negative emotions may help reduce arrhythmias,” Lampert said in an article on

The information can help doctors reduce the incidence of stress and anger-induced heart attacks and arrhythmias by emphasizing prevention, drug therapy and treatment for patients.

According to Reuters, the American College of Cardiology has reported that 400,000 people a year die from sudden cardiac death in the United States.

Related Topic: More stories of stress on the heart

Earlier in 2009, Larry Whitfield was accused of literally scaring a woman to death after he participated in a botched bank robbery and tried hiding in 79-year-old Mary Parnell’s home. Whitfield said he didn’t want to hurt her, but Parnell was so frightened that she had a fatal heart attack.

Sporting events can also leave people in danger of having heart attacks. In 2008, findingDulcinea reported that researchers in Germany had published a study finding that sports fans are 2.66 times more likely to have a heart attack during an important game than they are at other times.

During the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Dr. Gerhard Steinbeck, lead cardiologist for Maximilian University in Munich, monitored Munich-area emergency rooms for coronary incidents.

They found that on days when the German team was playing, the number of coronary events more than doubled. Over half of the patients who experienced heart problems on game days had some prior heart disease.

Reference: Heart resources


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