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Mental turmoil linked to heart disease

Tues March 10th, 2009

Anger, hostility and depression all aggravate the risk of major heart problems, according to two new studies published last night.

British experts warned there might be simple explanations for the findings.

For instance people with simmering anger or low spirits might turn to smoking and poor diet to relieve their stress.

Both sets are findings are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

A British researcher, Dr Yoichi Chida, of University College, London, found that being angry or hostile was linked to a 19 per cent increase in heart problems - and the link was strongest in men. It also seemed to aggravate existing heart disease.

His findings come from an analysis of 25 studies of healthy people and another 18 studies of people with heart disease.

Further analysis suggested that the unhealthy behaviour was the main link between anger and heart disease.

Writing in the journal Dr Johan Denollet, of Tilburg University, Holland, says: "Clinicians should take symptoms of anger and hostility seriously, and may consider referring their patient for behavioural intervention.

"We need to closely monitor and study these personality traits in order to do a better job at identifying high-risk patients who are more liable to future fatal and non-fatal coronary events."

For the same journal, Dr William Whang, of Columbia University, New York, USA, studied the fate of some 63,000 female nurses.

The studied linked serious depression to heart attacks - but the researchers said there seemed to be a strong link with the anti-depressant drugs used to treat the women.

Dr Whang said: "We can't say antidepressant medications were the cause of higher risk of sudden cardiac death. It may well be that use of antidepressants is a marker for worse depression."

June Davison, a specialist nurse with the British Heart Foundation, said the findings stressed the need to help patients find ways to cope with mental turmoil.

She said: "For most of us getting angry now and again won’t put us at serious risk, but people who experience anger for sustained periods of time need to identify ways of coping with the pressure, to help protect their heart and their general well being."

She added: "It is possible that there may be a biological explanation, but some people who are depressed are more likely to have unhealthy behaviours such as smoking or being physically inactive, which can lead to poor heart health. 

"If you are feeling depressed, or worried about your heart, it is really important to see your GP who can help you look after both your  heart and general health."

J Am Coll Cardiol 2009;53:936–46, 2009;53:950–8

Tags: Heart Health | UK News | General Health | Mental Health | Men’s Health | Women’s Health & Gynaecology | North America | Europe

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