This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Due to the intricate connections between our psychological and physical health, anger takes an enormous toll on the body. In fact, the effects are so serious that this emotion could be considered a killer.
Here are eight things that anger can do to your health when you either express it or silently fume.
Anger Shortens Life
A study from Iowa State University found that angry men between the age of 20 and 40 had a one-and-a-half times higher risk of being dead 35 years later, compared to their calm counterparts. The frequent release of the hormone adrenaline from the body during stress harms the DNA, which can put a person at risk for life-threatening illnesses like multiple sclerosis.
Anger Increases Heart Disease Risk
Both expressed and repressed anger raise the risk of cardiovascular disease. The spike in adrenaline associated with anger increases blood pressure and speeds the heart rate, effects that elevate the risk of a fatal abnormal heart rhythm. Adrenaline also boosts the risk of blood clots that occlude blood vessels and cause heart attacks.
Anger Raises Stroke Risk
A study showed that within the two hours following an angry outburst, people had a three-fold greater risk for stroke from a blood clot or bleeding in the brain. For those with a brain aneurysm, the risk was six times higher.
Anger Results in Poor Sleep
Anger stimulates a structure in the brain called the amygdala (deals with emotional processing), which produces a heightened state of anxiety. The response produces increased blood flow to the arms, legs and heart, making it almost impossible to relax.
Anger Is Linked to Depression and Anxiety
During anger, neurotransmitters and hormones surge through the bloodstream, resulting in a faster heart rate and increased muscle tension. When this occurs frequently, the nerve cells in the brain’s stress region become harder to switch off. Research indicates anger worsens symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. The emotion can also deplete levels of the mood-elevating chemical serotonin.
Anger Impairs Immunity
A Harvard study found people who recalled an angry experience from their past had a six-hour reduction in the antibody immunoglobulin A, which makes it harder to fight off infections. Moreover, the cortisol released with an anger episode can impair immunity when it’s triggered often.
Anger Hinders Digestion
Anger’s “fight or flight response” diverts blood flow to the limbs and away from the digestive system. The reduced blood flow results in lower oxygen levels, making it harder for the friendly bacteria in the gut to thrive. Anger can also lead to acid reflux and contribute to irritable bowel syndrome.
Anger Reduces Lung Function
Research from Harvard on men revealed that those with high hostility ratings performed worse on inhalation tests than those with lower hostility ratings. The scientists postulated that stress hormones create inflammation in the airways.
Anger can be constructive if you speak to the person with whom you are angry and try to problem solve frustrating issues in a non-confrontational way. Other helpful ways to deal with the emotion include deep breathing and getting regular exercise, as well as changing your environment and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
Experts also advise putting the anger-provoking incident in perspective by asking yourself, “Will this still matter 15 minutes from now?” Those who experience this damaging emotion frequently are recommended to seek professional counseling.