Bottling up anger promotes risk of heart attack

I am a big fan of Scott Adams, Dilbert, which is a true satire of the US office culture.  You can see different personalities that Scott has created varying from super cool Wally to ever engrossed hardworking Asok.  I think Wally is one of my favorite characters, not because he is highly inefficient in his work, but no matter what he is never tensed at all in any situation.   

If your job includes good amount of conflict with co-workers or your manger and you have been suppressing anger then it could be fatal for you as per a Swedish study.  The study done on men, revealed that men who do not express their anger if they are unfairly treated at work can increase their risk of heart attack by two fold.  Although the study was conducted on men, I think it will be applicable for women as well.  Dr Constanze Leineweber, who was the lead researchers from the Stress Research Institute in Stockholm, said: “There has been research before pointing in this direction but the surprise is that the association between pent-up anger and heart disease was such a strong one.” 

The study was published in Epidemiology and Community Health, let us take a look at the study in somewhat details:  

blood-pressureWhat was the mix of population under study?
The researchers selected 2,755 male employees in Stockholm who did not have history of heart attack at beginning of the study.  They were checked for smoking, drinking, physical activity, education, diabetes, job demands and their freedom to take decisions.  Their blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and cholesterol levels were measured and they were aged 41 on average at the start of the study between 1992 and 1995. 

Details of whether any of the men subsequently had a heart attack or died as a result of heart disease in the period up to 2003 were gathered from national registers of hospital treatment and deaths.

Office-conflict-angerWhat was the observed behavior for the study?
These men were asked about their way of coping with conflict at work, either with superiors or colleagues.  The methods included: whether they dealt with things head-on, whether they let things pass without saying anything, walked away from conflict, developed symptoms like headache or stomach ache or got into a bad temper at home.

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What are the main results of the study?
The men under study 47 of the 2,755 men had a heart attack or died from heart disease up to 2003.  The study revealed that the men who coped by sometimes or often walking away or who often let things pass without saying anything, had two fold increase in risk of a heart attack or dying from serious heart disease compared to men who challenged and dealt with the situation head-on.  

If men developed a headache or stomach ache or got into a bad temper at home, it did not increase the risk of heart attack or heart disease.  

The simple theory behind the increased heart attack with suppressed emotions was attributed to the fact that anger can produce physiological tensions.  More than likely, if the anger was not released by challenging the situation head-on, it leads to increases in blood pressure which eventually damages the cardiovascular system.

stress1Is increased stress main factor for increased heart attack?
Judy O’Sullivan, senior cardiac nurse for the British Heart Foundation, said: “Stress itself is not a risk factor for heart and circulatory disease, but some people’s responses to stress, such as smoking or overeating, can increase your risk. “ 

“We all find different things stressful and symptoms of stress canvary, but the important thing is that we need to find ways of coping with it in our lives in a positive way, whether at work or home.” 

It is evident that the way you respond to the stress is important than the stress itself in increasing your chances for cardiovascular disease, which is the top most killer in the US.  Tensions are bound to arise at your work place, but learn to cope with issues in more open manner, so that it has minimal or no impact on your health. 

Healthy Working!


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