25 September 2006

Anger raise risk of heart disease

Everyone gets angry from time to time. It's a normal human response to unfair treatment and other injustices. But normal anger is one thing, excessive hostility quite another. Excessive anger can bring on heart disease, at least in men. High-hostility men were 1.6 times more likely to die from heart disease than their more placid peers.

How does hostility harm the heart? Like other forms of stress, anger triggers a surge in adrenaline. This so-called stress hormone boosts the blood pressure and pulse rate. That increases the heart's workload and multiplies its need for oxygen. Adrenaline can also trigger abnormal heart rhythms. It also stimulates the formation of blood clots, which can block clogged arteries. All of these factors raise the likelihood of a heart attack.

Try to identify the things that bother you most and do your best to change them. Learn to recognize the warning signs of building tension, such as a racing pulse, fast breathing or a jumpy, restless feeling. When you recognize these signals, take steps to relieve the tension before it builds to the boiling point. Often something as simple as a brief walk or a snack can cool things down nicely. Build strong relationships and talk out your feelings instead of bottling them up inside. If it's difficult for you to talk aloud, try writing a letter. Establish priorities; set realistic expectations and pace yourself, building in time to relax. Get enough sleep. Don't try to calm yourself with nicotine, alcohol, or drugs. Think positively and make time for activities that are stimulating and enjoyable.

Even without professional help, you can benefit from stress-reducing techniques. Consider learning how to meditate. You can also use behavioral techniques to help stay calm. Here are some ways to practice during your daily life so you'll be able to keep your cool in times of stress:

- Drive your car in the slow right-hand lane.

- When you approach a toll plaza, join the longest line, even if you have the exact change.

- Use your car horn only to prevent car accidents, not to vent frustration.

- Eat slowly.

- Talk slowly; try not to interrupt others.

- Don't put in the last word in an argument, even if you think you're right.

- Don't raise your voice in anger.

- Don't use expletives; substitute less hostile phrases like "darn" or "rats."

- Don't permit outbursts of anger; instead wait for a few moments, take a few deep breaths, and express yourself calmly.

- Try not to grimace or clench your teeth; practice smiling.

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