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Hot-headed Men Headed for Heart Trouble

Hot-headed Men Headed for Heart Trouble
Hot-headed Men Headed for Heart Trouble


Duke Health News Duke Health News

Here's some good advice for men with hot tempers: Don't get mad, get healthy.

Men who chronically lose their temper face a far higher risk of developing a serious cardiac condition called atrial fibrillation, according to recent research. This condition can lead to blood clots in the heart that can travel to the brain and cause a potentially fatal stroke.

"We've known for at least 20 years that people who have chronic anger are more likely to have severe blockages in their heart arteries, to develop heart disease over time, to have increased risk of cancer death and more rapid progression of arterial sclerosis, even increased risk of workplace injuries," says Redford Williams, M.D., director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke University Medical Center and a leading expert on anger management.

Williams reminds people that letting your anger out is not always healthy.

"This is one of those myths that exist about anger, that if you've got a lot of anger, you should let it out, get rid of it. But it's equally bad to bottle it up. Both of these myths are wrong.

"If you always let your anger out, you're going to be doing a lot of exploding, since there's plenty in the world to get angry about. On the other hand, if you always hold your anger in, you could be holding it in about some pretty bad things. What we need to do is learn when to do something with our anger and when it's not that sort of situation and we should just chill out," Williams says. "It's not a case of always letting it out or always holding it in, it's a case of evaluating each situation and using learned anger management skills to help decide the best way to react."

Williams, who co-authored "Anger Kills," a book of strategies to control hostility, points to a long list of negative health consequences from anger. And he urges health-care providers to do more to help their patients deal with their anger and hostility.

"Given all the research showing how harmful anger is, we should be more aware of the health risks anger poses and begin to teach people the skills they need to manage anger better.

"We know that for all people, healthy or not, good nutrition and regular exercise are important. I would add anger management skills right in there with these other life-enhancing practices."

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