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Angry response to everyday life can cause health problems

June 17, 1996
Web posted at: 12:45 a.m. EDT

From Correspondent Sean McMann

(CNN) -- If you're a man who's easily angered by the traffic or the wait at the checkout line -- and you feel the need to express that anger in a vocal, violent way -- you may have what one leading researcher calls a hostile personality.

In his best-seller "Anger Kills," Dr. Redford Williams sounds a strong warning to men who have an angry response to everyday setbacks.

Williams

"Those with high hostility levels are four to seven times more likely to be dead of coronary disease and other causes by age 50," says Williams, head of behavioral research at Duke University. "We think over time (the angry response) is causing the wear and tear on the whole body, cardiovascular, immune system, stomach, you name it."

Williams says the body prepares itself to handle a perceived threat -- such as job or traffic stress -- in the same way it prepares for an actual life-threatening situation.

A "fight or flight" response is engaged in the brain, and the hormone noradrenalin is released directly into the heart, causing it to beat up to five times harder than normal. And the diameter of blood vessels throughout the body decreases, forcing blood into muscles and raising blood pressure dramatically.

blood presure graphic

All of these changes are very useful in an actual life- threatening situation, Williams says, but for sitting in traffic or waiting at the checkout line, the "fight or flight" response is not useful.

And the doctor's research shows that when we are angry, fat is released into the bloodstream.

"If you don't burn it up ... it just simply gets turned into cholesterol," he says.

Williams and other experts recommend intense and frequent aerobic exercise to help reduce the fat, let off steam, and keep arteries clear.


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