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Anger & Your Heart: 6 Ways to Change Your Lifestyle

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Author name: Lee Health

It can be an angry world: traffic jams, long lines at the grocery store, slow-loading screens and interruptions.

But those quick flashes of anger are nothing compared to the emotions that can coil up inside you, waiting to burst out: financial losses, feeling upset about your place in life or dealing with a threat.

No matter what kind of anger you have, your body is always giving off signals. Your muscles tense, you sweat, and you might even feel your heart race or pound.

On some level, we all know that anger is bad for our hearts.

“Any sort of real emotional outpouring does have an impact on our body,” says Dr. Richard Chazal, a cardiologist with Lee Health. "If I get excited or upset or frightened, for that matter, my body releases chemicals into the blood stream, particularly epinephrine, that can cause an increase in heart rate, increase in blood pressure and it can constrict some of the blood vessels.”

That means a person with a high stress lifestyle – especially someone who smokes or has a family history of heart disease – could be at a higher risk of a heart attack or heart disease.

Here are some tips about what you can do to soothe your anger:

Short-term solutions:

  • Take a time out: Simply remove yourself from an angry situation when you can. Having an argument with a co-worker or spouse? Decide to go into another room or take a walk.
  • Distract yourself: Sitting in traffic for a while at rush hour will annoy even the most enlightened soul. But, hey, you’ve got your music. Dial up your favorite song and sing along or name all the colors you see. 
  • Just breathe: If you are feeling overwhelmed at work, simply look up from your computer screen and count to 10. Take a few deep breaths. Many people are always surprised how good deep breathing can make them feel—they just forget or are out of practice. Put a sticky note on your computer to remind you every hour or so.

Long-term solutions

  • The American Psychological Association also recommends resolving your issues with logic and language: Appreciate things about the person or situation that makes you angry. Stop saying words like “never” (as in, “this never works”) and instead try to think about the bigger picture. The world is not out to get you. Change demands on people’s time to simple requests. You’ll find that simply changing the way you sound will go deep.
  • Physical activity: When you finally get home after being in that traffic jam or you find yourself in another argument, it might be time to go for that jog or take up kickboxing. Take off on your bike and explore the back roads. Science has proven time and again that physical activity can lower stress and anger levels. Not ready for a triathlon? Simply take a stroll under the stars to calm down.
  • Thinking affects feeling, the APA says, when coping with all your anger triggers: Remember to avoid lashing out. You can still be assertive instead of being aggressive. But learning the difference and how to act it out takes time and practice. Don’t rule out the possibility of therapy and consciously trying to change the way you think.

While we can’t always control what’s causing the stress we can control how we respond to it. Dr. Chazal recommends finding time to be active to reduce your level of stress.

“People who exercise release endorphins, which are hormones in the brain that actually have a soothing effect,” he says. The soothing effect from exercising can lower blood pressure and improve the vascular system, lowering the risk for a heart attack.

Talk to a Lee Health cardiologist today about heart issues or concerns.