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.