It was suppose to be a quiet evening at the beach. A stroll with my wife along the ocean. Our dog running up and down the beach chasing seagulls. It turned out to be anything but. It was not only our idea. About a million other people, (at least it seemed like it) decided to do the same thing. I hate crowds and I do not do well with so many people around. People where honking at me, yelling because I was trying to find a place to park.
I really tried to remain calm, really I did. And then it began. The tightening of the chest, my head starting to pound, and the expletives flew out of my mouth. My poor wife did a duck and cover as if a mortar round was getting ready to hit. It did. Right where I was sitting. Me the quiet guy that never has much to say. The guy who sits quietly at a party in the corner. But that day I thought I would go postal. Sorry honey.
Uncontrolled anger is not only embarrassing it is not good for your heart. As Louis L’Amour used to say “Anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before – it takes something from him.” And so it did.
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Chronic anger and stress cause your body to over-secrete stress hormones and chemicals. Growing evidence indicates that overproduction stokes inflammation and a wide variety of illnesses, including cardiovascular disease. Arteries constrict, causing blood pressure to rise and the heart rate to go up.
People who have angry outbursts appear to be at increased risk of heart attack or stroke, especially within the first two hours of an outburst, according to a study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and New York-Presbyterian Hospital researchers. Those with cardiovascular disease (CVD) are at particular risk.
“Although the risk of experiencing an acute cardiovascular event with any single outburst of anger is relatively low, the risk can accumulate for people with frequent episodes of anger,” lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky, instructor in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH, told the BBC News on March 3, 2014.
In reviewing data from nine studies involving thousands of people, the researchers found heart attack risk increased about five times in the two hours after an outburst; the risk of stroke more than tripled. A single angry outburst once a month in someone at low risk for CVD was associated with one extra heart attack per 10,000 people annually; the risk increased to an extra four per 10,000 people among those at high risk. Five angry episodes each day would result in about 158 extra heart attacks per 10,000 people at low risk annually, or about 657 extra heart attacks per 10,000 in those at high risk.
The part of the brain that responds first when anger strikes is the amygdala. You can find it located deep within the temporal lobe of the brain.
The amygdala controls emotion and the instinctive ‘fight or flight’ response to fear, feeling threatened and stress. It is able to process a magnitude of information, assessing the possible dangers within milliseconds; allowing you to react first and think later.
Above the amygdala within the frontal lobe lies the ability to make decisions, solve problems and behavior. When anger hits, blood rushes through the frontal cortex clouding rational thought; depending on the person, this flash reaction can be either helpful or harmful. The old adage of ‘count to ten before reacting’ comes in handy here.
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The domino effect of anger continues with the adrenal glands saturating the system with the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, giving you a burst of energy and added strength. This redirects blood flowing to the stomach and intestines to the muscles instead, in preparation to fight. Your blood pressure, pain threshold and temperature raise, breathing and heart rate increase, the pupils begin to dilate.
According to Heart MD, “Higher levels of fatty acids and blood sugar are released to provide immediate energy to survive the perceived emergency.” The problem with the continued release of these fatty acids is overtime they start to build up in the arteries, setting you on a path towards heart disease. If you are someone who is constantly battling with anger, you are putting your health at a much higher risk for coronary heart disease or heart attack.
So what can you do when you become angry? I mean besides having a meltdown.
Breathe- Taking deep breaths from the abdomen helps relax you physically and mentally. When the receptors in your lungs become fully saturated do you know what happens? It send a signal to the brain, amygdala, that everything is OK.
Take A Walk- Don’t tell the other person to take a hike. It will only escalate the situation. No, instead you go for a walk. A study from the University of Georgia found that exercise can help manage negative emotions such as anger, likely because exercise can help boost serotonin in the brain.
Write-Write-Write- Studies from the University of California in Los Angeles found that keeping a journal can help you overcome upsetting emotions and leave you happier overall.
Soothing Scents- Have you ever seen those little glass cases that say in-case of emergency break glass? I think that I will install one in my car. Inside a bottle of lavender or citrus. These two fragrance have been shown to shut down anger immediately.
Don’t React- Sorry but I would have a very difficult time with this one. My gut is to react and react like a Valkyrie. Viking horns and all. A study from Iowa State University found that doing nothing for two minutes diminished feelings of anger more so than hitting a punching bag while thinking about the source of the person’s anger.
It is not easy in our modern society not to get angry. There are times that we will become angry. We are human. But keeping that in mind I want to share a quote from Aristotle. He said, ” Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
For any inquires or suggestion for future articles contact me, Eli, at [email protected]. Have a Healthy Happy Week.
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