It turns out; our mothers may have been onto something when they said, “you are going to give me a heart attack.” Data from the Interheart study is supportive of the theory that you can significantly increase the risk of a cardiac event like AMI, simply by experiencing anger or emotional upset of any kind.
There has always been anecdotal evidence that suggests stress contributes to the onset of AMI. However, there has never been a study of note that sought to determine the range of emotions capable and to solidify once and for all that you can indeed “give yourself a heart attack.” Other questions posed in this study were whether extreme physical activity could also be a trigger for AMI in susceptible patients.
About the Study
The case-controlled global study evaluated data from 12,461 cases of patients diagnosed with their first AMI. Results were filtered for those patients who admitted experiencing a triggering event, not more than one hour before the onset of symptoms. The cases were then sorted into groups according to the emotional or exertional trigger. The findings were:
- 6% of AMI patients who had recently engaged in intense physical activity were at a 7.7% greater risk of AMI.
- % were either angry or emotional showed an increase in cardiac events by 8.5%.
- The overlapping group of patients experiencing both did show a further increased risk.
The study concluded with the determination that patients experiencing physical exertion, extreme emotional lability, or both exhibited a higher risk for first AMI, regardless of gender, race, age, or other effect modifiers.
Recommendations for the General Population
Since the study only included patients with a first AMI, it is important to apply the findings to the general population. The study author advises that going forward; doctors should inform their patients about the potential risk that emotional extremes pose. Patients should be urged to minimize exposure to emotional triggers and have solid strategies in place to help them cope more effectively with their anger, should it occur.
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