Being Short-Tempered Increases The Risk Of Heart Disease

Recurrent anger can increase the risk of heart disease such as heart attack and stroke. It has long been suspected that there is such a connection. A new study shows how this can occur.

The study shows that anger can be linked to a form of circulatory failure, a precursor to long-term damage that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Such a connection has long been suspected. This study shows how this can occur. It also opens up the possibility that anger management can be a possible preventive measure against heart disease.

It’s not dangerous to be angry now and then

Experiencing shorter periods of anger is normal and should not be harmful to the heart. It is recurrent and frequent outbursts of anger that cause concern.

-If you get angry all the time, you have chronic damage to your blood vessels, says Daichi Shimbo, the cardiologist who led the study.

It is chronic damage over time that can have irreversible effects on the blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease, he explains.


The study was randomized and controlled and had 280 healthy participants aged 18-73. The participants had no known risk factors for heart disease.

The researchers measured changes in blood flow in the blood vessels in the arm of each participant. They were then randomly assigned to groups to perform tasks that either elicited anger, fear, sadness, or a neutral emotional state. The researchers found that the ability of the blood vessels to dilate was significantly reduced among the participants in the group who became angry, compared to the people in the control group.

The weakening of the blood vessels lasted for up to 40 minutes after the anger-triggering event and then subsided.

The blood vessels of those who experienced fear and sadness were not affected.

Precursor to atherosclerosis

Previous studies have shown that blood vessels that have a reduced ability to expand are a precursor to the development of atherosclerosis – that fatty deposits build up in the blood vessels, which in turn can lead to heart disease – including heart attacks and strokes.

It is not known for sure why anger affects the function of the blood vessels. However, the researchers speculate that possible causes may include activation of the autonomic nervous system, changes caused by stress hormones, and increased arterial inflammation. Presumably, the inner wall of the blood vessels is also involved in some way. The researchers plan to look more closely at the causes in future studies.

Can laughter mitigate the damage?

As the participants in the study were young and healthy, more research is needed to clarify whether the findings also apply to older adults with health problems, i.e. people who are likely to use medication. Future studies should also examine whether positive emotions, such as laughter and joy, can moderate the negative effects of anger on the heart.

Several measures can help reduce anger. Including exercise, yoga, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

  1. Shimbo D, Cohen M, McGoldrick M, et al.. Translational Research of the Acute Effects of Negative Emotions on Vascular Endothelial Health: Findings From a Randomized Controlled Study. JAHA 2024. 
  2. National Institutes of Health: NIH-funded clinical trial links frequent anger to increased risk of heart disease