Intense exercise while angry triples heart attack risk
People who try to work off anger with heavy physical exercise triple their risk of triggering a heart attack, a new study has revealed.
Channelling negative emotions by pounding the pavement can lead to a life-threatening medical emergency.
The ground-breaking research, led by NUI Galway, also showed that losing your temper or experiencing distress on its own doubles the chances of having a heart attack within the next hour.
And the risk of heart attack also doubles for those who just engage in exercise beyond their usual limits.
But the greatest danger is for people who lose their temper or feel agitated while simultaneously pushing themselves with strenuous exercise, said chief author Prof Andrew Smyth, Galway's Clinical Science Institute.
The study looked at data from 12,461 patients in 52 countries who suffered a heart attack, quizzing them on what they did in the hour before taking ill.
There was no significant difference between those who were healthy and people who had known risk factors like high blood pressure or were smokers.He said: "Emotional and physical triggers are thought to have similar effects on the body.
"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."
He added: "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 relieve some of this stress, not to go well beyond their normal routine to extremes of activity."
The research was carried out by the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University, Canada and is published today in the prestigious journal Circulation, produced by the American Heart Association.
It is particularly significant in its findings showing a link between mind and body.
The results have particular relevance to hardy participants in the upcoming Dublin City Marathon.
Prof Murphy said: "People go to extremes of physical exertion. That is probably where the risk lies.
"People should be careful about doing things way beyond them."
His advice to people generally is that when it comes to exercise they should "listen to their body".
Prof Smyth said the average age of the patients was 58 and there was no difference for men or women.
The study said excess anger, under the wrong conditions, can cause a life-threatening heart attack so "all of us should practise mental wellness and avoid losing our temper to extremes."
One way many cope with the emotional ups and downs of a health condition is through peer support and talking about it.
One limitation of the study was that participants had to recall their triggers.
After a heart attack, a person may be more inclined to say they experienced a trigger than they otherwise would be.