The Upside of Anger Management: Outsmarting Anger Increases Longevity
For most of us, anger is a part everyday life. Getting cut off in traffic, being treated unfairly, and misunderstandings with family, coworkers, and friends are regular occurrences, so we’re accustomed to a little daily agitation. But anger doesn’t just furrow the brow or clench the fist – it sets off a chain reaction of events in the body that can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and a host of other health issues. Left unchecked, it can have profoundly negative effects on longevity.
Mad is Hell
When anger erupts, it floods the bloodstream with adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. These stress-response hormones raise the heart rate, tense the muscles, and kick the fight-or-flight response into high gear. And even though the stress response is designed to energize us in an emergency, it can cause immediate problems.
The average heart rate is 80 beats per minute, but when anger storms the scene, the pulse can accelerate to 180 bpm. Similarly, anger can inflate blood pressure from 120/80 to 220/130, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
The Grudge Report
The effects of repeatedly roused or sustained anger are even more menacing. Studies have shown a correlation between stress hormones and elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a blood protein linked with inflammation, which can cause hardening of the arteries, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. In a 2004 study at Duke University, subjects who were prone to anger and hostility had CRP levels that were two to three times higher than their more easy-going peers.
And a 2009 review of 44 studies published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that adults who suffered from chronic anger were 19 percent more likely to develop heart problems than those who experienced anger less frequently.
Bad Mood = Bad Food (and other questionable decisions)
Anger can trigger poor lifestyle choices like overeating, abusing alcohol, smoking, and aggressive driving – behaviors that can result in obesity, the onset of Type II Diabetes, automobile crashes and even death. And people who are chronically angry risk alienating their friends, family, and coworkers, and jeopardizing their personal and professional relationships.
But there are easy and effective ways to keep anger and its unhealthy, aging effects at bay. Here are three suggestions from the Blue Zones® Power 9® principles designed to help you outsmart anger:
- Move Naturally: The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons, or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving. Physical activity is an effective way to reduce anger and the stress responses that accompany it. Taking a walk, doing some gardening, a yoga session, or a bike ride can do wonders to blow off some steam, not to mention lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Down Shift: Stress leads to chronic inflammation, which is associated with every major age-related disease. The world’s longest-lived people have routines to shed that stress. Closer to home, Mayo Clinic recommends deep breathing, visualization, listening to music or writing in a journal. The APA suggests yoga or repeating a calming phrase. And an increasing number of studies are suggesting that meditation can lower stress and reduce inflammation. (Rosenkranz 2013),
- Right Tribe: The world’s longest-lived people choose, or were born into social circles that support healthy behaviors. Research shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. No wonder many studies stress the importance of choosing your tribe wisely so you can catch their good moods rather than their bad ones.
A support system of healthy, happy friends, family and coworkers can help us outsmart the obstacles – emotional and physical – of anger.
So how’s your mood serving you? Take the Blue Zones® True Vitality™ Test – the most accurate life estimator available – to discover how your emotions, along with your exercise and eating habits, are impacting your life and longevity. Calculate your biological age, overall life expectancy, healthy life expectancy, and years you’re gaining/losing because of your habits, and get up to 12 customized recommendations to help you live longer!
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Kam, K. (2009, December 21). How anger hurts your heart. Retrieved from
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Staicu ML, Cutov M (2010, November 15). Anger and health risk behaviors. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3019061/.
Rosenkratz M, Davidson R, MacCoon D, Sheridan J, Kalin N (2012, October 22). A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation. Brain,Behavior, and Immunity. 2013; 27: 174 – 181.
Mayo Clinic Staff (2014, April 18). Anger management: 10 tips to tame your temper. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/anger-management/art-20045434.
Unknown. (2015). Controlling anger before it controls you. American Psychology Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx.
Lewandowski, G (2012, July 1). Is a bad mood contagious? Scientific American. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-a-bad-mood-contagious/.