Anger Can Exact a 
Heavy Price Pt. 2

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

This article is a part of the series on mind body medicine about how you can actively participate with your doctor in the treatment of your illness through healthy choices, behaviors, emotions, and other lifestyle chances. 

As America's number one killer, heart attacks account for nearly half of all deaths in U. S.  Every year, over twice as many people die of heart attack as from all types of cancer combined. Other conditions being equal, a person given to angry outbursts and high hostility is at a higher risk of a heart attack, or even death than a person with low anger and hostility. We must remember that anger does more inward damage than can be seen by the naked eye. Anger hurts the angry more than it does the object of the anger. There is an oriental saying, that goes, "You will not be punished for your anger. You will be punished by your anger." This is a physical fact! 

Let's look at the physiology of anger. During an outburst of anger, heart rate goes up to 180 beats per minute or even higher compared to the regular heart rate averaging about 80. The blood pressure too goes up, 220 to 130 or even higher, compared to normal readings of 120 to 80. Other harmful physical and chemical changes take place. Body uses up sugar extremely fast creating a sugar deficiency. As a result an angry person shakes in anger. 

In the primitive order of the animal world, anger, aggression, and assault are one and the same thing. The body just knows that it is in a "fighting" mode in which it may be injured and bleeding may occur. To safeguard itself in the case of excessive bleeding, the angry person's body releases chemicals to coagulate (clot) the blood, therefore blood clots form more quickly than usual. Now a truly dangerous situation is at hand, that is, ( 1 ) bleeding has not occurred, and (2) a clot is formed which can potentially travel to any organ of the body, including, the brain or the heart.

In a fit of uncontrollable anger, in the case of a heart patient, the heart can suddenly stop due to that clot floating up to the heart and getting lodged there. In another case, heart arteries can squeeze off hard enough to choke off the supply of oxygen to the heart which can cause severe chest pains, creating the well known condition of "angina pectoris." A stroke can also occur when a person in an uncontrollable fit of anger bursts an artery in the brain. This is how anger can hurt the subject more than it does the object of the anger.

Number of strokes and heart attacks are caused by uncontrolled outbursts of anger.  Of course, chances of such serious consequences are greater if a person already has high blood pressure, high cholesterol level, or plaque formation in coronary arteries. Hostile people are more likely than others to have poor health habits, such as overeating, smoking, and drinking alcohol to excess. These too produce additional problems in the case of a heart disease.

Prescription for the problem: shun anger and violence in all forms and degrees.  Ventilation of anger often breeds more angry episodes for the future. "Anger is that 'human waste'(euphemism for a four letter word) that each time hits the circulatory fan "  , to borrow an enlightened angry person's expression. It is best to develop an attitude of non-anger and non-resentment, so there are not that many things out there to get you upset.

It is easier to take anger out of your life, if you do not believe anger to be their birthright. I am often told, "Why shouldn't I be angry when so and so did such and such." Some men are likely to think that shunning anger amounts to losing their male spunk, becoming sissy or something. Instead of making ourselves "immune" to anger, we just hope that circumstances and people won't do or say the things that can make us angry. We must learn that if we become angry, no body else is responsible for our anger except ourselves. Blaming others for our anger sometimes makes us even more angry. It is best to forgive them not for their sake, for your own sake.

Get in the habit of not getting upset by little things. It is not the big matters, but often the small things which keep us upset all day, someone cutting us off in traffic, "stupid" policy at work, "silly" government rules, line at the counter, etc. Smile at such problems. The size of a man (or woman) is judged by the size of the problem that can get him out of shape. Instead of taking pride in the power of your anger, take pride in becoming calm and unflappable. Then you will have more power in doing whatever you want to do. Finding humor in your failures, mishaps, and other imperfections of life counteracts against anger and frustration.

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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