26th October 1997


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Anger can kill

The heart is a blood filled bag of muscle about the size of a fist. The muscle contracts some seven times a minute to pump blood round the body. Like any other active tissue the heart muscle itself needs a good supply of oxygen and gets this from the bloodstream. The heart's own supply is taken not from the blood which is being pumped through the heart but from separate little arteries called the coronary arteries. These arteries branch off from the main artery (the aorta) and fan out all over the surface of the heart.

Over a period of years starting in early adult life, the walls of these arteries can gradually become furred up with a fatty deposit called atheroma. If the atheroma gets too thick and the arteries too narrow the blood supply to the heart muscle can be restricted or even blocked. This leads to what is known as the coronary heart disease.

If the narrowing of the coronoy arteries is very gradual, the first signs of trouble may be noticed only when the heart is having to work harder than usual. Because the blood flow through the arteries is restricted, anything which makes the heart pump a little faster than usual - even if it is only walking up steps - starves the heart of blood.

The classic situation is when a person is exercising or getting excited or angry. This brings on a heavy cramp-like pain across the chest like a huge weight Sometimes the pain spreads to the neck, shoulder, arm or jaw. It usually fades away after the person has had a few minutes rest.

Next time you reach out to throw something across the room in anger, ask yourself three questions - you might spare your heart as well as the plaster. Trimming the anger, say researchers from Union Memorial Hospital and Loyola College of Maryland in Baltimore may also trim the chances that you will need an angioplasty more than once.

In their research, the team studied 41 male and female patients whose angioplasties had been scheduled or recently done. They conducted audiotaped interviews designed to measure various types of verbal hostility, especially behaviours previously seen as common to patients with heart disease. Then they monitored the patients' heart health for over 12 months. Their results showed that those who scored high in hostility were two and-a-half times more likely to have arteries clog again than people low on the hostility scale. These facts were tabulated in the Mayo clinic proceedings in August 1996.

"A number of studies," says Prevention magazine, " have indicated that hostility is the reason as it boosts the stress hormones blood pressure and the sticky components of blood that contribute to the blockage of coronary arteries. But this is the first one to link hostility to the number- one hangup in the long-term success of angioplasty; the third or so people who get "re-called" for a second angioplasty within six or so months.

"While this is a small study, the findings lead us to ask if rates of restenosis (reclogging) would drop if we trained these patients to be less hostile,' says Redford Williams, author of a book, Anger Kills and adds that learning to recognise and manage anger is a good place to start. He offers some useful tips:

ls it important? For instance does it really matter if you get where you are going five minutes later because the person ahead of you is driving ever-so-slowly. If you ignore his speed and go behind him happily you could knock out about 30 percent of personal anger straight away.

Is my anger justified? In other words ask yourself if that person ahead of you is actually driving close to or at the limit? Are you trying to overspeed? Is there anything I can do to change the situation and lose this anger ?

"If you answer 'yes' to all three questions it means you should assertively ask for what you want, explains," Dr. Williams but never blow up. A 'no' to any of the questions suggests you should try to talk yourself out of being angry. These three questions he adds may do your heart - and those around you - a big favour.

- Gulf Tabloid

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