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Anger can harm your health

Illustration of a woman looking angry

June 6, 2024—It's normal to get angry sometimes. It even has benefits. But over time, frequent anger can harm your health.

It might be no surprise to know that anger can damage relationships and affect your emotional health. But according to the American Heart Association (AHA), American Psychological Association (APA) and other experts, frequent anger can also lead to physical health problems, including:

  • Digestive problems.
  • Inflammation.
  • Headaches.
  • Heart disease.
  • Heart attack.
  • Substance use.
  • Stroke.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Sleep problems.

How anger harms your health

Anger triggers the release of cortisol and adrenaline, stress hormones that are part of the body's fight-or-flight response. That raises your heart rate and blood pressure. Muscles tighten, and breathing may become more rapid. If that stress response becomes chronic, it can contribute to a variety of health problems.

Anger can trigger the body to form clots or trigger plaque in your arteries to rupture, says the AHA. It may also temporarily damage the ability of blood vessels to dilate, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association. More research is needed, but according to the AHA, the new findings may help explain why anger can trigger a heart attack or stroke.

Anger is also linked to inflammation, which can affect the immune system. The APA reports that, among people age 80 or older, daily anger has been linked to the development of chronic illness.

But it's not all bad. A certain amount of anger is necessary for survival, says the APA. It can help you identify problems, respond to threats and defend yourself and others. And it can be an effective motivator. Studies have shown that anger improves people's ability to achieve difficult goals.

But that doesn't mean you should let it control your life. Managing your anger can help you protect your health and your relationships.

Easing anger

Venting may feel good in the moment. But it can actually intensify anger—without resolving the situation that triggered it, says the APA. That doesn't mean you should repress your feelings. But a few simple strategies can help to soothe your body and your emotions. That can help you focus on addressing the underlying problem.

Check your emotions. If you start to feel too annoyed, step away from the situation before it turns into full-blown anger.

Focus on the positives. If someone made you angry, try to let go of those feelings. Instead, think about what you appreciate about them.

Take a break. Relaxation techniques, like deep breathing or visualization, can help you calm down.

Think before you speak. Don't jump to conclusions. Slow down, listen to what the other person is saying and think through how you want to respond.

If you need more ideas, try these five ways to improve your mood.

Know when to get help

If your anger gets out of control, you don't have to go through it alone. Tell your doctor if you:

  • Feel like your anger is out of control.
  • Hurt yourself or others because of your anger.
  • Have been told your anger is a problem.
  • Do things you regret because of your anger.
  • Have anger that lasts longer than one month.

Your healthcare provider can offer support and help connect you to the resources you need. If you're worried about starting the conversation, check out these tips.


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