People who are angry or frustrated often resort to strenuous physical activity to relieve their stress, whether it be vigorous house cleaning, an intense workout at the gym or even a long run through their neighborhoods. And while many of them say the activities help calm them down, a new study led by Population Health Research Institute at McMasters University in Hamilton, Ontario has found that it may actually put them at a higher risk for heart attacks.
The study, which was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and various participating foreign government groups along with grants from several drug companies, was created to examine the effects anger and exertion have on the heart. Data for the project was collected via questionnaires from nearly 12,500 people with an average age of 58 in 52 countries who suffered their 1st heart attack. It should also be noted that 75% of the participants were men.
All were asked if they were upset or angry, as well as whether they had performed heavy exertion an hour before the attack, as well as whether they had done so during the same time frame the previous day. This allowed the researchers to compare risk factors at different times for the same subjects and the effect these had on triggering coronary incidents.
Not only did they find that states of emotional turmoil and distress and physical exertion doubled the risk of having a heart attack within the next 60 minutes, but combining both at the same time more than tripled the danger, regardless of whether they had normally high blood pressure, were overweight. They also found that people were most at risk between 6pm-mindnight.
“This is because emotional stress and exertion can raise blood pressure and heart rate, change the flow of blood in the vessels and reduce the heart’s blood supply, stated project leader, Dr. Andrew Smyth of McMaster University, who also noted that. “In an artery already clogged with plaque, a trigger could block blood flow and lead to a heart attack.”
While the researchers acknowledged that there are times when people can’t avoid stress or anger they should make a concerted effort to avoid letting it go to extremes and take it down a few notches by “distracting” themselves. This can include walking away from the upsetting situation, trying to view it from a different perspective, venting frustrations verbally by talking it out with other people, and seeking emotional support from friends.
In the meantime, Smyth added that although he and his colleagues believe everyone should participate in a regular physical activity, individuals who use exercise to relieve stress “shouldn’t go beyond their usual routine at such times.”
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