DALLAS -- People who are highly anger-prone are nearly three times more likely to have a heart attack, a study found.
The connection between anger and heart attacks held true even after researchers took into account other major risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and obesity.
"The implications of our study are that anger could potentially lead to heart attacks, especially among middle-aged men and women with normal blood pressure," said Janice Williams, an epidemiologist in Atlanta who led the study while at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The study adds to previous research showing a link between heart health and depression, hostility and other emotions.
Previous studies have shown that stress hormones constrict blood vessels and may trigger a blockage in the arteries.
The latest findings appear in Monday's issue of Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association.
As part of the study, nearly 13,000 adults were followed for six years. All were interviewed before they had a heart attack. That minimized the possibility that their anger was produced by their heart trouble.
Anger was measured with a 10-question survey asking people such things as whether they felt they were hotheaded, did they feel like hitting someone when they got angry or did they feel annoyed when they were not given recognition for doing good work.
The survey ranked people low, moderate or high in anger-proneness and found those in the high category were 2.69 times more likely than those in the low category to have a heart attack or die of heart disease.
Dr. Robert Federici, a cardiologist with Lovelace Health System in Albuquerque, N.M., said the findings prove that emotions like anger and stress have a great deal to do with a person's risk of heart disease.
"It goes along with other studies that show depression and other emotions are very clearly related to the disease process," he said.
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American Heart Association: http://www.americanheart.org
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