It turns out not to be a myth that anger can trigger a heart attack or stroke. A systematic review has showed a flash of anger may send the body down a path which ends in a heart attack or stroke, reported MedPage Today on March 4, 2014. According to Murray Mittleman, DrPH, of the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues, the evidence is consistent showing a direct relationship between short bouts of anger and cardiovascular events in the hours immediately following the outburst.
However, the researchers reported online in the European Heart Journal that it's not clear how substantial the risk is. Nevertheless, as mediated via increases in circulating catecholamines, increased myocardial oxygen demand, coronary vasospasm, and increased platelet aggregability, anger can be the cause of transient ischaemia, disruption of vulnerable plaques, and increased thrombotic potential. Myocardial or cerebral ischaemia or malignant arrhythmias can result from these changes. The long-term association between chronic mental stress, anxiety, depression, and hostility with adverse cardiovascular events has already been well established. The short-term risk of an acute outburst of anger has been more difficult to determine.
This research shows that there is a higher risk of cardiovascular events after outbursts of anger in individuals at risk of a cardiovascular event, but because each episode of anger may be infrequent and the effect period is transient, the net absolute impact on heart disease burden is extremely low. However, it has been observed that with increasing frequency of anger episodes, these transient effects may accumulate, which may be associated with a larger clinical impact.
The researchers have noted that the magnitude of increased risks was higher for individuals who had a greater cardiovascular risk initially. It is suggested that a broad and comprehensive approach to treating acute and chronic mental stress, and its associated psychological stressors, is likely to be necessary to heal a hostile heart.