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Is anger a major contributor to heart disease? (Counselling Articles)

As a psychologist who counsels clients with anger management issues, I often reference a book written in the early 1980s by Duke University’s Redford Williams, MD. In his book “Anger Kills”, Williams discusses a series of steps for managing anger.

I reference William’s research to demonstrate to my clients how learning to manage anger and other negative emotions can lessen the risk of developing heart disease and having a heart attack.

Williams’ research documents that one of the aspects of the Type A personality that is known to increase heart disease risk is hostility. The same research indicates that hostile people are more likely to eat more and smoke more, and exercise less, all risks for developing higher cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, and higher blood pressure. These physical problems can usually be traced back to increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body. Continuous elevated levels of cortisol, as well as increased inflammation in the walls of the coronary arteries, can lead to a greater risk of heart attack.

I challenge my clients to ask themselves whether an angry response to a situation is worth the established health risk. More importantly, I ask them to choose between demonstrating anger and other negative emotions over a long period of time or living a longer, healthier life.

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Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta

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