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Oct 20, 2016

Exercising While Angry Increases Risk for Heart Attack

The effects of extreme emotion and vigorous exercise on the heart are multiplied when combined.

Vigorous exercise and extreme emotion are a dangerous combination, based on recent findings that link exercising while angry to a threefold increase in risk for heart attack.

Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, this study explored the association between exercise, emotions and risk for heart attack in a large, international population. While past studies have found that vigorous exercise and extreme emotions can trigger heart attacks, few have measured their effects in a diverse population.

To learn more, the INTERHEART study analyzed 12,461 heart attack cases across 262 health care centers in 52 countries. Participants were interviewed about the hour before their heart attack, answering questions like “Were you engaged in heavy physical exertion?” and “Were you angry or emotionally upset?”. The average age of participants was 58 years old; three-quarters were men.

Overall, 13.6% of participants had engaged in exercise in the hour before their heart event, while 14.4% reported being angry or upset prior to their heart attack. After analysis, researchers found that physical activity and anger more than doubled risk for heart attack. When combined, participants that were both upset and engaged in exercise had three times greater risk for heart attack than those that did not.

Of course, authors note that this study was not a randomized controlled trial, so it can’t prove cause and effect. The data on exercise and emotional state was self-reported, so it may not be completely accurate. Still, findings confirm that exercise and extreme emotions can trigger heart attacks, and suggest that their effects may be greater when combined.

The take-home message, according to authors, is that we should avoid extreme emotions, as they put added stress on the heart and body. Also, while exercise is very beneficial to heart health, vigorous exercise may be more likely to trigger heart events than more moderate forms of exercise like walking or jogging. So as with most things, avoiding extremes may be beneficial and help promote better health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Who is at risk for heart attack?
  • The most common risk factors for heart attack include increased age, tobacco use, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, stress, illegal drug use, lack of physical activity and family history of heart attack.
  • How can I reduce my risk for heart attack?
  • You can significantly reduce risk for heart attack by knowing your numbers and addressing any cardiovascular risk factors that you may have, including hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, or smoking. You can also help reduce cardiovascular risk by maintaining a healthy weight and heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly and controlling stress.

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Taking time to unwind and relieve stress is important for heart health. Learn more »