Tuesday, March 1, 2011

hostility makes your heart angry

Good news: The snow melted over the weekend. Bad news: I should have written this post yesterday. Let's pretend we can travel back in time, OK? Not that we want to revisit Monday more than we have to, but bare with me.


I wanted to sum up my month of going red and heart health awareness with some information I learned about cardiovascular disease in class last week. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America (40% of the yearly deaths in the U.S.), and approximately 60 million people suffer from cardiovascular disease.

Proximate causes include:
  • Atherosclerosis - a condition in which scar tissue in the arteries blocks blood flow to the heart.
  • Arteriosclerosis - a condition in which coronary arteries lose their elasticity and are then unable to handle the volume of blood pumped to the heart, and they are susceptible to clotting.
  • Stroke
Conditions such as atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis may progress a-symptomatically for years. When heart problems do arise, symptoms may include angina pectoris, which is crushing pain in the chest (not a heart attack) due to lack of oxygen; and myocardial infarction, which is a heart attack. When a person experiences a heart attack, heart tissue dies very quickly and those dead cells cannot be restored, so that is why it's so important to get immediate help during a heart attack.


There are uncontrollable and, luckily, controllable risk factors for heart disease. Those that you cannot control are your family history and age, gender, and race and ethnicity. Women and adults 65 and older are more likely to have cardiovascular disease; however men are more likely to have heart attacks. African Americans tend to have higher blood pressure than Caucasians, so they are at a greater risk for heart disease. Risk factors that you can control include hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, tobacco use, and your cholesterol level. Click here to learn more about all major risk factors from the American Heart Association.

A lot of my class lecture focused on anger and hostility, and how those emotions can effect your heart. According to my professor, 20% of heart attacks happen in the middle of an angry episode. Here are some theories on hostility and heart health:
  • Psychosocial Vulnerability Hypothesis: Hostile, angry adults have insufficient social support, which leads to isolation and heightened stress.
  • Health Behavior Model: Poorly supported people are less likely to take care of themselves and their health, and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors.
  • Psychophysiological Reactivity Model: Stress and anger act slowly over time to increase risk. Hostile people are more physically reactive to stress.
  • Biopsychosocial Model: Physiological predisposition to disease interacts with hostile attitudes and poor health habits to create a hostile, non-supportive, and stressful environment, in which disease is more likely to develop.

Type-A personalities tend to be more prone to hostility and anger, because people with this personality type tend to be more competitive, stressed, aggressive, and hurried. If you have this type of personality, don't worry. There are things that you can do when you feel stressed or angry to help control your emotions and help protect yourself from cardiovascular disease:
  •  Differentiate how you feel from how you act. Smashing into the bumper of the slow car in front of you isn't going to lessen your anger. Accept the emotion and learn to control your behavior.
  • What makes you angry is not random, but patterned. Learn to recognize the cues that trigger your anger, and avoid them or develop a relaxation response when you see those anger cues.
  • Anger dissipates over time. Do not make any decisions while you're angry. They are bound to be terrible decisions based on emotion rather than logic. Remove yourself from the situation and give yourself time to calm down.
  • What you tell yourself is the key to mental health. If you tell yourself that the world is out to get you, then you will act defensively or aggressively in many situations you encounter. Practice telling yourself positive things rather than focusing on the negative in your life.
Just as diet and exercise has an effect on your heart health, so does your attitude. Be good to your heart, after all, you owe it your life.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating! I'm in cardio physiology and we rarely talk about attitude's effects on the heart, except for occasionally stress. Thanks for posting that.

Brittany said...

Great blog! Heart problems run in my family on my mom's side. My grandpa died with he was 54 of a heart attack. I really worry about stress affecting me because I get SUPER stressed out. I need to learn how to control it better. Thanks for the tips!

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