Lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky, an instructor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Murray Mittleman, also of the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital said those with cardiovascular disease are at particular risk.
The researchers reviewed data from nine studies from 1966 to 2013 involving thousands of people and found heart attack risk increased by about five times in the 2 hours following an angry outburst. In addition, the risk of stroke more than tripled.
The study, published in the European Heart Journal, found a single angry outburst once a month in someone at low risk for cardiovascular disease was associated with one extra heart attack per 10,000 people annually; but the risk increased to an extra 4 per 10,000 people among those at high risk.
Five angry episodes each day would result in about 158 extra heart attacks per 10,000 people at low risk annually, or about 657 extra heart attacks per 10,000 in those at high risk, the researchers determined.
The findings do not necessarily indicate that anger causes heart and circulatory problems and studies are needed to understand the link and to find out if stress-reduction strategies, such as yoga, might help, the researchers said.