Whether it’s frustration after finding another pair of dirty socks (that are certainly not yours) on the living room floor, or euphoric joy at your latest pickleball win, emotions often come over us in strong waves. Sometimes it’s hard to control our feelings, but if you’re experiencing intense bouts of anger, it may have a negative effect beyond the heat of the moment. A new study shows it could increase your risk of suffering from a stroke.
What is a stroke?
There are different types of strokes, but the most common is an ischemic stroke, which happens when a blood clot blocks or reduces the amount of blood flow going through an artery to the brain. This reduces the amount of blood in the brain, and can lead to some serious health complications. More than 795,000 people suffer from strokes every year in the United States, and about 140,000 people die from them.
Can our emotions trigger a stroke?
While conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes are known causes of stroke, a new study out of Ireland aimed to find out whether anger or emotional upset could have any connection with strokes. Researchers looked at over 13,000 cases of people who had suffered acute strokes, and looked at whether there was a common trigger.
Interestingly, one in every 11 stroke survivors reported having experienced an episode of intense anger in the hour leading up to their stroke. The study’s authors concluded that getting extremely angry could lead to a 30 percent higher risk of stroke!
“Some of the best ways to prevent stroke are to maintain a healthy lifestyle, treat high blood pressure, and not to smoke, but our research also shows other events, such as an episode of anger or upset … increase the short-term risk.” Prof Martin O’Donnell, co-leader of the study, said in a press release.
How to Feel Less Angry
Learning how to deal with intense bouts of anger won’t just be good for your mental health, it can also lower your stroke risk. Psychologist Deborah Cox, PhD, co-author of The Anger Advantage (Buy from Amazon, $6), recommends leaning into the anger to figure out where it’s coming from. Since emotions often manifest as physical feelings — from a headache to a tightening in your chest — she suggests locating where in your body this uneasiness first arises.
“Place your hand over that body part and breathe, asking yourself, If I could speak honestly about what I’m feeling, what would I say? So many of us are dealing with this complex emotion – when you begin to own it, you reclaim part of yourself.”
Another great coping mechanism is meditation, and this simple step-by-step guide can relax you in minutes. However you do it, find comfort in knowing that learning how to calm yourself is good for your physical — and not just your mental — health.
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