Anger and the Heart: Perspectives on Cardiac Risk, Mechanisms and Interventions

Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases , 05/01/2013

Suls J. et al.– In the popular imagination, anger has long been linked to cardiovascular diseases (CVD), but empirical validation from case–control and prospective studies emerged only in the 1970’s. After describing the multidimensional nature of anger and its assessment (via self–report or observed in structured interviews), this paper selectively reviews evidence in (a) behavioral epidemiology, (b) stress and biological processes with implications for cardiopathogenesis, and (c) behavioral/pharmacological interventions for anger/hostility reduction.

  • Although evidence is inconsistent, chronic feelings of anger, cynical distrust and antagonistic behavior are at least modestly associated with risk of both initiation and progression of CVD.
  • Anger/hostility also is linked to stress exposure and reactivity, exaggerated autonomic function, reduced heart rate variability, platelet aggregation and inflammation.
  • Clinical and pharmacologic treatment of anger/hostility has the potential to reduce anger and its health–damaging effects.
  • Limitations, including third–variable explanations and overlap among the negative emotions, and implications for cardiology and behavioral medicine research and practice are discussed.

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