Rage is, well, all the rage these days. We see it on display on our freeways as road rage, in online rants and in family and workplace disputes. What you may not know is these toxic outbursts pose multiple health risks, from heart disease to insomnia to weight gain that might lead to diabetes.
Anger, fear, excitement, anxiety – they all trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response. This means stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol flood the body. This in turn can trigger an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and sugar metabolism that can lead to all sorts of problems.
Blowing Your Stack Can Damage Your Heart
Research by Duke University Medical Center found that people increase their risk for a heart attack more than eightfold shortly after an intensely angry episode. Anger can also help bring on strokes and irregular heartbeat, other studies have shown. Increased adrenaline and cortisol levels raise blood pressure and cause the heart to work harder. Increased blood pressure and blood flow can also damage the lining of arteries. This is especially concerning for people already at risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. About half of American adults have at least one of three key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol or a smoking habit.
Studies Tie Chronic Fury to Diabetes
The potential for heart disease isn’t the only consequence of explosive anger. Research by Golden et al in 2006 found that individuals at the highest levels of anger temperament scores had a 34 percent increased risk of developing diabetes compared to individuals in the lowest levels. Golden et al suggested there are several mechanisms by which anger temperament might lead to Type 2 diabetes. Such chronic anger can lead to poor health behaviors like smoking and poor eating habits that lead to weight gain, they said.
Other Short-Term and Long-Term Problems
Unmanaged anger can lead to many other short-term and long-term health problems. High on the list are:
Tips on Dialing Back on Anger
If you find that your fuse is getting shorter and shorter and your blow-ups longer, here are some tips for getting a grip on yourself:
Talk to your doctor. He or she can help identify health problems that may be adding to your emotional upheaval. And they can refer you to other helpful resources.
Take a step back when anger strikes. Count to 10 before you act. Pay attention to what triggers your anger. Temporarily remove yourself from a heated situation when possible until you’re feeling calmer.
Distract yourself with a magazine, soothing music or by going for a walk.
Channel all that angry energy into exercise to release endorphins, which help the body relax.
Consider yoga or meditation.
How do you keep anger in check? Leave a comment!
Dr. Leonardo Espitia is a Family Medicine physician who specializes in chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia.