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How Anger Affects the Body. The Antidotes?

Hadley’s Intro:  Angry outbursts not only alienates you from

loved ones, it also wreaks havoc in your own body.   Try

antidotes to anger suggested in guest post courtesy

of New York Times.

Lost your cool? Your heart, brain and gut are
taking notice.

By Gina Cherelus
Published Dec. 17, 2022
Updated Dec. 26, 2022
If your chill was nowhere to be found this year,
you’re not alone. Public life and personal
hardships provided ample fodder for flare-ups,
which, in addition to costing your cool, can also
take a more serious toll: According to scientists,
prolonged and extreme anger can also exacerbate
existing health problems, as well as affect the
way we react to certain issues.

“Throughout the day and throughout the week and
throughout the month, we’re activating these
systems during times of frustration, anger or rage
that in the short run might help you in an
emergency situation,” said Dr. Ilan Shor
Wittstein, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins
Hospital in Baltimore. “But in the long run, it
might be quite detrimental to how these
neurohormonal systems are activated as often as
they are for those cases.”

Anger responses can cause a ripple effect
throughout the body: From the cardiovascular
system to your nervous system, it’s all fair
game. These are just some of the main organ
systems it can play havoc with.

The Heart
According to Dr. Wittstein, an expert in stress
cardiomyopathy, also known as “broken heart
syndrome,” one way to think about the heart is
to imagine a house: There can be issues with the
pipes, doors or the electrical system, but the
house itself might seem fine.

“Rage can have effects on the arteries that
supply blood on the heart, it can have an effect
on the electrical system specifically that tells
the heart when to beat, and it can have an effect
specifically on the heart muscle itself,” he
said.

So if you’re already living with conditions that
affect the cardiovascular system such as high
blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms or high
cholesterol, moments of extreme anger may leave
you more vulnerable to a sudden heart attack.

When you’re filled with rage, Dr. Wittstein
offered as an example, blood pressure can
increase, blood vessels can constrict,
inflammatory cells are released by the immune
system. All of this can lead to the rupturing of
plaque inside the coronary artery.

If that plaque forms a clot, blood supply in that
portion of the heart can be cut off. “And that
can either cause a heart attack that lands a
person in the hospital, or a person can even drop
dead of a sudden heart attack,” he said.

The Brain
In a sense, anger can have a positive physical
effect in that it can help motivate you to get up
and do something. When we’re angry and aroused,
our brains are primed for fast reactions. If
there’s danger or a social threat that triggers
an angry state, we are more likely to act on it:
the fight-or-flight response.

One possible trade-off: In that agitated state,
we’re less likely to make good judgments, to
listen for certain information and to be attuned
to other motivations that are important for humans
like values, said Dr. Royce Lee, a professor of
psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the
University of Chicago.

“You might often hear a person in an angry state
say or do something that they don’t really
like,” Dr. Lee said. “And when they’re not
angry they will regret it and wish they didn’t
do that.”

According to Dr. Orli Etingin, an internist at
NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, anger and
chronic stress also affects our memory, causing it
to not “work very well.”

“Forget about the fact that you’re probably
sleep deprived too,” she added, “but you
definitely cannot pay good attention to things.”

The Gut
You might have heard about the “gut-brain
connection,” the much-discussed link between our
emotions and our stomachs. Like other feelings,
anger and rage can trigger gastrointestinal
discomfort, malabsorption of food and loss of
appetite.

“The GI tract is made up of muscle tissue and
it’s innervated by nerves. So if you have a very
high adrenaline output, the stomach and the
intestines are going to have a hypermobility,”
Dr. Etingin said. “You’re going to have
cramps, you’re going to have diarrhea, because
the muscles there are being over activated.”

According to Dr. Matthew Burg, a clinical
psychologist and professor at the Yale School of
Medicine, small changes in your routine can help
mitigate those risks. “It’s almost impossible
to avoid feelings of anger, but meditation, breath
work, fitness and getting a full night’s rest
are all helpful ways to manage anger,” Dr. Burg
said.

“If we all grew up understanding that, we
probably wouldn’t be as stressed and angry as we
are,” he said.

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Will you use this info to support good health and happiness?

Hadley Finch

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