Exercising when angry could ‘triple risk of having a heart attack’

Study provides evidence of ‘crucial link’ between mind and body, experts say

Jane Kirby
Tuesday 18 July 2017 12:43 BST
Strenuous exercise should not be used as a means of 'blowing off steam', researchers said
Strenuous exercise should not be used as a means of 'blowing off steam', researchers said (iStockphoto)

Attempting to “blow off steam” through vigorous exercise could triple the risk of a heart attack within the hour, experts say.

Being very upset or angry more than doubles the risk of a heart attack within an hour, while heavy physical exertion does the same, a worldwide study suggested.

But combining the two - such as using extreme exercise as a way of calming down - increases the risk even further.

Experts said the study - the biggest of its kind - provides evidence of a “crucial link” between mind and body.

The new research, published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation, suggested a doubling of the risk association between anger or emotional upset, or physical exertion, and the onset of first heart attack symptoms within one hour.

The association was much stronger - just over triple the risk for patients who said they had been angry or emotionally upset while also engaging in heavy physical exertion.

Dr Andrew Smyth, lead author of the study from the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Canada, said extreme emotional and physical triggers are thought to have similar effects on the body.

He added: “Both can raise blood pressure and heart rate, changing the flow of blood through blood vessels and reducing blood supply to the heart.

“This is particularly important in blood vessels already narrowed by plaque, which could block the flow of blood leading to a heart attack.

“Regular physical activity has many health benefits, including the prevention of heart disease, so we want that to continue.

“However, we would recommend that a person who is angry or upset who wants to exercise to blow off steam not go beyond their normal routine to extremes of activity.”

Researchers analysed information from 12,461 patients from 52 countries with an average age 58. They had completed a questionnaire about the kind of “triggers” they experienced in the hour before they had a heart attack.

The results showed that 14% (1,650 people) had engaged in physical activity while 14% (1,752 people) were angry or emotionally upset.

The experts took into account the effect of other risk factors such as age, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and other health problems.

Dr Barry Jacobs, director of behavioural sciences at the Crozer-Keystone Family Medicine Residency Programme in Springfield, Pennsylvania, said: “This large, nearly worldwide study provides more evidence of the crucial link between mind and body.

“Excess anger, under the wrong conditions, can cause a life-threatening heart attack. All of us should practice mental wellness and avoid losing our temper to extremes.

“People who are at risk for a heart attack would do best to avoid extreme emotional situations.”

Press Association

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