Qui di seguito sono riportati gli studi che correlano le emozioni negative con patologie anche gravi, come addirittura l’infarto cardiaco, pubblicati su importanti riviste specifiche di settore (“Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association”)
Anger Can Harm the Heart.
Aug. 16, 2010 — Personality type and the ability to control anger may have an effect on heart health and one’s risk for stroke, according to a new study published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Researchers from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in Baltimore, a division of the National Institutes of Health, found that people who are angry and aggressive showed a greater thickness of the carotid arteries in the neck, a key risk factor for heart attack or stroke, compared with people who were more easygoing.
Moreover, people considered the least agreeable and the most antagonistic had a 40% increased risk for arterial wall thickening. This is similar to the risk imparted by having metabolic syndrome, a known potent contributor to heart disease. The findings suggest that physicians should consider personality traits when screening patients for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, there are about 1.2 million heart attacks and 800,000 strokes every year. Cardiovascular disease accounts for about one-third of all deaths.
The researchers write that “when the Type A behavioral pattern was dissected into its constituent parts, hostility emerged as the dominant predictor of coronary artery disease.” Their latest findings uphold the connection between aggressive behavior and heart health.
“People who tend to be competitive and more willing to fight for their own self-interest have thicker arterial walls, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” says study author Angelina Sutin, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the NIA. “Agreeable people tend to be trusting, straightforward, and show concern for others, while people who score high on antagonism tend to be distrustful, skeptical, and at the extreme cynical, manipulative, self-centered, arrogant, and quick to express anger.”
Anger and Heart Attack Rick Factors.
NIA researchers studied 5,614 village residents living in Sardinia, Italy; 58% were female, and the mean age was about 42. Participants either self-reported their behaviors through a questionnaire or chose to have their questionnaires filled out by a trained local psychologist.
Ultrasound imaging was used to measure carotid artery and arterial wall thickness at five points, and the participants were screened for other major cardiovascular disease risk factors, including smoking, high blood pressure, cholesterol triglyceride levels, fasting blood sugar levels, and diabetes.
The study results showed that even young people who were antagonistic displayed thickening of the artery wall above and beyond what would be expected based on traditional risk factors alone. Overall, men had more thickening of the artery walls compared to women. But “women who scored high on antagonism-related traits tended to close the gap, developing arterial thickness similar to antagonistic men,” Sutin says. “Whereas women with agreeable traits had much thinner arterial walls than men with agreeable traits, antagonism had a much stronger association with arterial thickness in women.”
A New Way Hotheads May Be Hurting Their Hearts.
May 5, 2000 — Hostility and anger may break your heart. Really.
Researchers from Ohio State University say these toxic emotions may be linked to the levels of a substance that many believe may increase the risk of heart attacks. The study findings suggest that hostility may trigger increases in blood levels of the substance called homocysteine. High levels of this substance are believed to increase the risk of heart disease.
When researcher Catherine M. Stoney, PhD, compared blood levels of homocysteine from persons who participated in a study measuring hostility and anger, she found that more hostile people had higher levels of homocysteine.
Moreover, she found that men who inhibit or suppress their anger have higher levels of homocysteine than men who release their anger. But she found no similar association among the women in the study, which is published in the April 28 issue of the journal Life Sciences.
Stoney and her colleagues measured hostility and anger in the 31 men and 33 women using standard psychological questionnaires. In the hostility questionnaire, “first we try to assess the kind of things that have to do with how one perceived the world and interacts with others,” she says. For example, a question might ask if the person thinks other people are “just out to get what they can without regard for others.”
The anger questionnaire, she says, asks about ways in which a person reacts to certain situations. Stoney says, “for example, a scenario might be that one’s boss is loud and critical. We ask how would you respond? Would you yell back? Would you just be quiet and hold in your anger?”
Stoney says earlier studies suggest that hostility and anger are related to increased activity in the nervous system during stress. “Therefore, one potential picture emerging from the current data is that men, particularly high hostile men, are demonstrating chronically elevated [nervous system] activity, resulting in higher homocysteine concentrations,” she writes.
Asked to comment on the finding, Jonathan Abrams, MD, tells WebMD the study is “an interesting tidbit and probably deserves further evaluation.” Abrams, a nationally known expert in preventive cardiology, will soon be publishing his own paper on homocysteine. He is a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.
Abrams notes that this is a very small study that looked at patients with homocysteine levels in the normal ranges. He says, “We don’t consider homocysteine elevated until it is in the range of 10 or 11 to 15. These levels are all well below that.” In Stoney’s study, the average homocysteine level for women was just under six and for men, who have higher homocysteine levels than women, it was about seven.
Stoney says it is too early to suggest any practical purpose of the findings. Abrams says that it is likely that homocysteine is a risk factor for heart disease, but “we have no data that show that lowering homocysteine or modifying it will do anything.”
Stoney agrees that no one knows whether lowering homocysteine may impact the risk of heart disease. Homocysteine is normally broken down in the body by B vitamins and the nutrient folic acid. But she says that most people could probably benefit by finding more flexible ways to express anger and by attempting to overcome hostility, perhaps through counseling.
Abrams says that theories that anger or personality type may contribute to heart disease have fallen into disfavor. “If you go to the heart meetings in recent years, you see that this is considered somewhat soft science and doesn’t get much attention,” Abrams says. “Although I believe that personality probably does play a role, it is just awfully hard to flesh out this theory.”
A new study shows that hostility and anger may cause a rise in levels of homocysteine in the blood, a substance that may increase the chance of having a heart attack.
Men who suppress their anger, instead of expressing it, have higher levels of homocysteine, but this did not hold true for women who inhibit their anger.
Scientists still have many questions about homocysteine, and do not yet know if lowering levels of the substance will consequently lower the risk of heart attack.
Rein In the Rage: Anger and Heart Disease.
Experts explore the connection between anger and heart disease, and give tips for getting your anger under control.
By Katherine Kam
WebMD Feature Reviewed by Robert J Bryg, MD
If a caller upsets you, do you hurl the phone across the room? Do you curse and blast the horn furiously if the driver in front of you takes three seconds to notice the green light? An angry temperament can hurt more than relationships — anger and heart disease may go hand in hand, according to experts.
“You’re talking about people who seem to experience high levels of anger very frequently,” says Laura Kubzansky, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health who has studied the role of stress and emotion on cardiovascular disease.
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Moderate anger may not be the problem, she says. In fact, expressing one’s anger in reasonable ways can be healthy. “Being able to tell people that you’re angry can be extremely functional,” she says.
But explosive people who throw things or scream at others may be at greater risk, as well as those who harbor suppressed rage, she says. “Either end of the continuum is problematic.”
Gender doesn’t appear to make much difference, she adds. “Once people are chronically angry, men and women seem to be at equally high risk.”
Scientists don’t all agree that anger plays a role in heart disease, she says. But many studies have suggested a significant link. “I think the case is strong,” Kubzansky says.
For example, one large study published in Circulation in 2000 found that among 12,986 middle-aged African-American and white men and women, those who rated high in traits such as anger — but had normal blood pressure — were more prone to coronary artery disease (CAD) or heart attack. In fact, the angriest people faced roughly twice the risk of CAD and almost three times the risk of heart attack compared to subjects with the lowest levels of anger.
Anger may not be the only culprit in heart disease risk. Kubzansky’s own research suggests that other extreme, negative emotions may contribute, too. “Anger is a problem, but so, too, are high levels of anxiety and depression. They tend to co-occur. People who are angry a lot also tend to have other chronic negative emotions as well.
Anger and Heart Disease: What’s the Connection?
How might hotheads be hurting their hearts?
Scientists speculate that anger may produce direct biological effects on the heart and arteries. Negative emotions, such as anger, quickly activate the “fight-or-flight response.” They also trigger the “stress axis,” Kubzansky says. “That’s a slightly slower response, but it activates a cascade of neurochemicals that are all geared toward helping you in the short run if you’re facing a crisis.”
While these stress responses mobilize us for emergencies, they might cause harm if repeatedly activated. “When they persist over time, they end up being potentially damaging,” she says.
For example, excessive amounts of stress hormones may speed up the process of atherosclerosis, in which fatty plaques build up in arteries, Kubzansky says.
Anger may also disrupt the electrical impulses of the heart and provoke dangerous heart rhythm disturbances.
Other research suggests that stress hormones may lead to higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a substance linked to atherosclerosis and future heart disease risk. In 2004, Duke University scientists who studied 127 healthy men and women found that those prone to anger, hostility, and depression had two to three times higher CRP levels than their more placid peers.
“CRP levels at this range are associated with inflammation that is likely to eventually increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke,” says researcher Edward Suarez, PhD. The findings were published in Psychosomatic Medicine.
Besides direct biological effects, lifestyle factors also come into play. Angry people may take worse care of themselves. “People who are chronically distressed may not behave in health-promoting ways,” Kubzansky says. “We know that anxious, depressed, angry people are more likely to smoke, less likely to engage in physical activity, have poor nutritional habits and drink to excess.”
Anger — as well as anxiety, depression and other negative emotions — are a part of life, Kubzansky says. They can serve useful purposes. “But if people find that they have them chronically and at high levels and can’t seem to get away from it, I view it like pain. It’s a signal that something needs to change. This is not how it’s supposed to be.”
Anger and Heart Disease: How to Get Anger Under Control.
Anger is intertwined with other problems that may end up harming the heart, says psychologist Wayne Sotile, PhD. “If you mismanage anger, it’s going to compromise your most intimate relationships,” he says. “It’s going to isolate you from others. The likelihood increases that you’ll get depressed, and you’re going to cause problems in your life that increase anxiety and worry.”
Sotile is director of psychological services for the Wake Forest University Healthy Exercise and Lifestyle Programs and a special consultant in behavioral health for the Center for Cardiovascular Health at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C.
Counseling and anger management classes can help the chronically angry to get their deep-seated emotions under control. But you can take more immediate steps, too, experts say.
First, when you feel the heat rising, figure out how to calm yourself. “You do this by learning to recognize the signs that your fuse has been lit and stamping it out before you explode,” Sotile writes in his book, Thriving with Heart Disease.
For example, some experts recommend taking a time out by counting to 10 before responding or by walking away from the situation.
Countering angry thoughts helps, too, Sotile says. “When you’re angry, remind yourself that others are usually doing their best. No one sets out in the morning with the mission to infuriate you.”
He suggests that people keep in mind these “coping statements” to help them get a grip and avoid blasting someone:
“I can’t accomplish anything by blaming other people, even if they are responsible for the problem. I’ll try another angle.”
“Will this matter five years from now? (Five hours? Five minutes?)”
“If I’m still angry about this tomorrow, I’ll deal with it then. But for now, I’m just going to cool off.”
“Acting angry is not the same as showing that I care.”
“Let me ask, rather than tell.”
“I’ll listen rather than talk.”
“The fastest way is not necessarily the best way except in a life-or-death situation, and this is not one of them.”
Last, regular exercise provides an outlet for stress and anger, and it cuts heart disease risk in other ways, too, says Rita Redberg, MD, MSc, a professor and director of Women’s Cardiovascular Services at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. “Physical activity is an excellent way to reduce your heart disease risk because it reduces stress, anger, hostility. It also reduces your blood pressure and raises your good cholesterol and lowers your weight.”
Stress and High Blood Pressure.
Stress is a normal part of life. But too much stress can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical problems — including heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pains, or irregular heart beats.
Reducing stress can help lower high blood pressure.
How Does Stress Contribute to Heart Disease?
Medical researchers aren’t sure exactly how stress increases the risk of heart disease. Stress itself might be a risk factor, or it could be that high levels of stress make other risk factors (such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure) worse. For example, if you are under stress, your blood pressure goes up, you may overeat, you may exercise less, and you may be more likely to smoke.
If stress itself is a risk factor for heart disease, it could be because chronic stress exposes your body to unhealthy, persistently elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Studies also link stress to changes in the way blood clots, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
What Are the Warning Signs of Stress?
When you are exposed to long periods of stress, your body gives warning signs that something is wrong. These physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral signs of stress should not be ignored. They tell you that you need to slow down. If you continue to be stressed and you don’t give your body a break, you are likely to develop health problems. You could also worsen an existing illness.
Below are some common warning signs of stress.
Physical signs Dizziness, general aches and pains, grinding teeth, clenched jaws, headaches, indigestion, muscle tension, difficulty sleeping, racing heart, ringing in the ears, stooped posture, sweaty palms, tiredness, exhaustion, trembling, weight gain or loss, upset stomach
Mental signs Constant worry, difficulty making decisions, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, lack of creativity, loss of sense of humor
Emotional signs Anger, anxiety, crying, depression, feeling powerless, frequent mood swings, irritability, loneliness, negative thinking, nervousness, sadness
Behavioral signs Bossiness, compulsive eating, critical attitude of others, explosive actions, frequent job changes, impulsive actions, increased use of alcohol or drugs, withdrawal from relationships or social situations
How Can I Cope With Stress?
Here are some tips for coping with stress:
Eat and drink sensibly. Abusing alcohol and food may seem to reduce stress, but it actually adds to it.
Assert yourself. You do not have to meet others’ expectations or demands. It’s OK to say “no.” Remember, being assertive allows you to stand up for your rights and beliefs while respecting those of others.
Stop smoking. Aside from the obvious health risks of cigarettes, nicotine acts as a stimulant and brings on more stress symptoms.
Exercise regularly. Choose non-competitive exercise and set reasonable goals. Aerobic exercise has been shown to release endorphins. natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude.
Relax every day. Choose from a variety of different techniques (see below).
Take responsibility. Control what you can and leave behind what you cannot control.
Reduce causes of stress. Many people find life is filled with too many demands and too little time. For the most part, these demands are ones we have chosen. Effective time-management skills involve asking for help when appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and taking time out for yourself.
Examine your values and live by them. The more your actions reflect your beliefs, the better you will feel, no matter how busy your life is.
Set realistic goals and expectations. It’s OK, and healthy, to realize you cannot be 100% successful at everything all at once.
Sell yourself to yourself. When you are feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem.
Get enough rest. Even with proper diet and exercise, you can’t fight stress effectively without rest. You need time to recover from exercise and stressful events. The time you spend resting should be long enough to relax your mind as well as your body. Some people find that taking a nap in the middle of the day helps them reduce stress.
How Can I Keep a Positive Attitude When I’m Stressed?
A positive attitude and self-esteem are good defenses against stress, because they help you view stress as a challenge rather than a problem. A positive attitude keeps you in control when there are inevitable changes in your life. A positive attitude means telling yourself there are things you can do to improve certain situations and admitting that sometimes there’s nothing you can do. To maintain a positive attitude during a stressful situation (or to prepare yourself for a potentially stressful situation), keep these tips in mind:
Stay calm. Stop what you’re doing. Breathe deeply. Reflect on your choices.
Always tell yourself you can get through the situation.
Try to be objective, realistic, and flexible.
Try to keep the situation in perspective. Think about the possible solutions. Choose one that is the most acceptable and feasible.
Think about the outcome: Ask yourself, what is the worst possible thing that can happen? Chances are, it won’t happen.
Tell yourself that you can learn something from every situation.
How Can I Reduce My Stressors?
While it is impossible to live your life completely stress-free, it is possible to reduce the harmful effects of certain stressors. Here are some suggestions:
First, identify the stressor. What’s causing you to feel stressed?
Avoid hassles and minor irritations if possible. If traffic jams cause you stress, try taking a different route, riding the train or bus, or car-pooling.
When you experience a change in your life, try to continue doing the things that you enjoyed before the change occurred.
Learn how to manage your time effectively, but be realistic and flexible when you plan your schedule.
Do one thing at a time; concentrate on each task as it comes.
Take a break when your stressors reach an uncontrollable level.
Ask for help if you feel that you are unable to deal with stress on your own.
How Can I Learn How to Relax?
In order to cope with stress, you need to learn how to relax. Relaxing is a learned skill — it takes commitment and practice. Relaxation is more than sitting back and being quiet. Rather, it’s an active process involving techniques that calm your body and mind. True relaxation requires becoming sensitive to your basic needs for peace, self-awareness, and thoughtful reflection. The challenge is being willing to meet these needs rather than dismissing them.
There are a number of methods you can use to relax, including:
Deep breathing. Imagine a spot just below your navel. Breathe into that spot, filling your abdomen with air. Let the air fill you from the abdomen up, then let it out, like deflating a balloon. With every long, slow exhalation, you should feel more relaxed.
Progressive muscle relaxation. Switch your thoughts to yourself and your breathing. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling slowly. Mentally scan your body. Notice areas that feel tense or cramped. Quickly loosen up these areas. Let go of as much tension as you can. Rotate your head in a smooth, circular motion once or twice. (Stop any movements that cause pain!) Roll your shoulders forward and backward several times. Let all of your muscles completely relax. Recall a pleasant thought for a few seconds. Take another deep breath and exhale slowly. You should feel relaxed.
Mental imagery relaxation. Mental imagery relaxation, or guided imagery, is a proven form of focused relaxation that helps create harmony between the mind and body. Guided imagery coaches you in creating calm, peaceful images in your mind — a “mental escape.” Identify your self-talk, that is, what you are saying to yourself about what is going on with your illness or situation. It is important to identify negative self-talk and develop healthy, positive self-talk. By making affirmations, you can counteract negative thoughts and emotions.
Relax to music. Combine relaxation exercises with your favorite music. Select the type of music that lifts your mood or that you find soothing or calming. Some people find it easier to relax while listening to specially designed relaxation audio tapes, which provide music and relaxation instructions.
Biofeedback. Biofeedback helps a person learn stress-reduction skills by using various instruments to measure temperature, heart rate, muscle tension, and other vital signs as a person attempts to relax. The goal of biofeedback is to teach you to monitor your own body as you relax. It is used to gain control over certain bodily functions that cause tension and physical pain. If a headache, such as a migraine, begins slowly, many people can use biofeedback to stop the attack before it becomes full blown.
Once you find a relaxation method that works for you, practice it every day for at least 30 minutes. Taking the time to practice simple relaxation techniques gives you the chance to unwind and get ready for life’s next challenge.
Can What I Eat Help Fight Stress?
Your body is able to fight stress better when you take the time to eat well-balanced meals. Eat a variety of foods each day, including lean meats, fish or poultry, whole grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
Guidelines for Healthy Eating to Fight Stress
Eat a wide variety of healthy foods to counteract stress.
Eat in moderation — control the portions of the foods you eat.
Reach a healthy weight and maintain it.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables per day.
Eat food that is high in dietary fiber, such as whole grain cereals, legumes, and vegetables.
Minimize your daily fat intake. Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Limit your consumption of sugar and salt.
Limit the amount of alcohol and caffeine that you drink.
Make small changes in your diet over time.
Combine healthy eating habits with a regular exercise program.
How Does Sleep Affect My Stress Level?
Lack of sleep can contribute to stress. On the other hand, if you are stressed, you may not be able to get good sleep. Either way, if sleep is a problem, try these tips:
Establish a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
Make sure your bed and surroundings are comfortable. Arrange the pillows so you can maintain a comfortable position.
Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
Use your bedroom for sleeping only; don’t work or watch TV in your bedroom.
Avoid napping too much during the day. At the same time, remember to balance activity with rest and recovery.
If you feel nervous or anxious, talk to your spouse, partner, or a trusted friend. Get your troubles off your mind.
Listen to relaxing music.
Do not take sleeping pills before talking to your doctor.
Take diuretics or “water pills” earlier, if possible, so you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired. Don’t stay in bed worrying about when you’re going to fall asleep.
Maintain a regular exercise routine but don’t exercise within two to three hours of bedtime.
If you’ve been told you snore loudly, if you tend to be persistently tired during the day, and especially if you find yourself falling asleep during the day, consider the possibility that you might have sleep apnea. This should be something you discuss with your doctor.