Anger, Hostility, & Stress Lead To Heart Disease

Recent scientific evidence has shown that a person’s emotional state can have a significant effect on their likelihood of developing coronary heart disease.

Emotions such as anger, hostility, stress, and happiness all play a role in either reducing or increasing heart disease risk. Researchers believe that in individuals that have none of the traditional risk factors associated with heart disease, emotions may be responsible for as many as 50% of heart attacks.

Studies have linked anger, hostility and depression to heart disease, suggesting individuals who display high levels of the three emotions have higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) which leads to narrowing of the arterial walls and an increased risk of heart disease.

A study, conducted at Duke University in the United States, involved healthy men with no heart disease risk factors completing a questionnaire assessing their levels of the emotions: anger, depression, and hostility. Those men who rated their levels of depression, hostility, and anger to be high, had levels of CRP between 2 to 3 times higher than those with lower scores in the three emotions.

Another possible mechanism that may explain the correlation between these emotions and heart disease is that more aggressive individuals tend to have higher levels of the hormone testosterone and individuals with high testosterone levels tend to be at a higher risk of heart disease.

Happiness on the other hand has been shown in numerous studies to have a protective effect on the heart. One study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that happier individuals had 32% lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol which has been linked to heart disease. Happier individuals also had lower levels of blood fibrinogen (also associated with heart disease) and also had lower heart rates.

Other studies have also found it link between positive emotions such as joy, love and happiness and lower blood pressure and conversely a link between negative emotions and higher blood pressure has also been established.

One such study, published in 2006 in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that in Mexicans Americans, those who scored higher on an emotion scale between 0 and 12,with 12 being positive and 0 being negative, were less likely to have high blood pressure. A one point increase in positive emotion score was associated with up to a 9 percent decrease in the odds of being in a high blood pressure category.