Health and Fitness

6 Ways Constant Anger Can Hurt Your Health Long-Term

Here’s what you should know about the many ways anger can impact your body in the long run, and what to do if you’re concerned about how it might be taking a toll on your health. 

1. Heightened inflammation 

A growing body of research suggests chronic stress, as well as the negative emotions associated with it, is strongly linked to higher levels of inflammation in the body and dysfunctional immune system responses. 

Your immune system is designed to attack potential threats to your body with inflammatory cells, Dr. Duijndam explains. “With chronic stress, including anger, these markers of inflammation increase as well.” So even if you don’t have, say, an infection brewing, these inflammatory cells may start to get rowdy and go after healthy cells instead if you’re a person who deals with lots of anger, she says. That, in turn, can set the stage for various health issues, especially as you age. 

For example, a 2019 study that followed 226 older adults for one week found that those who had higher levels of self-reported anger were more likely to have higher levels of inflammation and a higher risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, osteoarthritis, diabetes, and even certain cancers. 

On top of that, constantly feeling rage-y can also impact your everyday habits, some of which may lead to further inflammation, or simply damage your health in other ways. “The significant confound we have in any of this research is that people who are chronically angry tend to engage in lots of unhealthy behaviors,” Dr. Martin says, such as smoking, excessive drinking, and overeating or loading up on food that isn’t as nutritious as it could be. “Those unhealthy behaviors will have an impact too,” he stresses.

2. Heart disease

“The bulk of the evidence that we have on the health consequences of anger really has to do with the heart and [the rest of the] cardiovascular system, and we’ve known that for decades,” Dr. Martin says. 

Try to do a quick body scan the next time your blood starts to boil—that is, take a moment to notice how the various parts of your body feel, one by one—and it won’t be hard to understand why anger can do a number on your heart. “When you keep ruminating in a state of anger, it leads to poor cardiovascular recovery,” says Dr. Duijndam. Again, that’s because “it keeps you in a state of stress.” 

Anger can spike your blood pressure and heart rate, two factors that place immense pressure on your heart muscle and therefore heighten the risk of chronic hypertension. An influx of stress hormones can also boost your blood sugar levels and blood fatty acid levels, which can damage blood vessels and lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, respectively. That’s one reason why regularly getting and staying angry could potentially play a role in conditions like cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. 

3. Reduced lung function

Quick and shallow breathing is one of the first physical effects anger triggers for many people. “When we need to ‘fight or flight’ from a situation that’s threatening, it makes sense,” Dr. Duijndam says. It’s your body’s way of trying to supply more oxygen to areas it perceives as essential, like the brain and muscles. It follows, then, that strong emotions like anger are a common trigger for asthma attacks in those who are susceptible. 

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