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Anger and Stress Can Be Deadly for People With Heart Disease!

Posted Mar 04 2009 2:24pm
According to the American College of Cardiology, there are more than 400,000 sudden cardiac deaths in the United States every year. Previous studies also showed that earthquakes, war or even the loss of a World Cup soccer match could raise rates of death from sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest is a condition in which the heart stops circulating blood.

Recently, a study by Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut indicated that anger and other strong emotions could trigger potentially deadly heart rhythms in certain people with heart disease. The paper was published on February 23, 2009 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

62 patients with heart disease were studied by the researchers. They were equipped with implantable heart defibrillators or ICDs (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator), which are devices that deliver an electrical shock to restore a normal heartbeat when dangerous heart rhythms or arrhythmias are detected.

The patients were asked to recount a recent angry episode so that the research team could perform a so-called T-Wave Alternans test to measure electrical instability in the heart. By specifically asking questions to get people to relive the angry episode, the researchers found in the lab setting that anger did increase the electrical instability in these patients.

These patients were then followed for 3 years. The study found that people who had the highest anger-induced electrical instability were 10 times more likely to have an arrhythmia in follow-up.

The researchers suggested that anger could be deadly for people who are already vulnerable to this type of disturbance in the heart. However, how anger and stress might affect people with normal hearts is likely very different from how it might affect the heart with structural abnormalities. Therefore, they cautioned that people should not simply extrapolate their results to normal people.

Meanwhile, a study has been conducted by the same researchers to see if anger management classes can actually help reduce the risk of arrhythmia for patients who are at risk.
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