Have you ever been so mad that veins start popping out in your head? Researchers have found that anger and other high emotions may trigger deadly heart rhythms in certain people.
“It's definitely been shown in all different ways that when you put a whole population under a stressor that sudden death will increase,” said Dr. Rachel Lampert of Yale University. “Our study starts to look at how does this really affect the electrical system of the heart.”
Researchers studied 62 heart disease patients with implantable defibrillators that were already known to be vulnerable to arrhythmia. For this study, the patients recounted a recent anger episode while the researchers did a T-Wave Alternans test, which measures electrical instability in the heart. The researchers asked specific questions that were designed to make the patients relive the angry episode.
“We found in the lab setting that yes, anger did increase this electrical instability in these patients,” Lampert said.
Afterwards, the patients were checked on for three years so researchers could find out who had a cardiac arrest and needed a shock from their implantable defibrillators.
“The people who had the highest anger-induced electrical instability were 10 times more likely than everyone else to have an arrhythmia in follow-up,” said Lampert. As for the study results, “It says yes, anger really does impact the heart's electrical system in very specific ways that can lead to sudden death”
Lampert is now involved in a study to find out if anger management classes may help lower the risk of arrhythmia in at-risk patients.