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Research: Anger kills

June 26, 1996
Web posted at: 11:15 p.m. EDT

From Reporter Sean McMann

(CNN) -- Are you easily angered by common stress sources, like traffic or the wait at the checkout line? And you feel the need to express that anger in a vocal, violent way? You may possess what the head of behavioral research at Duke University calls a "hostile personality."

In his best-selling book "Anger Kills," Dr. Redford Williams sounds a strong warning to those -- typically males -- who have an angry response to everyday setbacks. According to the Duke professor, those with high hostility levels are four to seven times more likely to be dead of coronary disease and other causes by age 50.

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Williams says those with hostile personalities are stressing their bodies out by calling on them over and over again to go into "fight or flight" mode -- in essence putting the body on alert to handle external attacks.

He says the chronic use of this response over time may be 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 a job conflict or traffic stress, in the same way it prepares for an actual physical attack. The brain releases the hormone noradrenalin directly into the heart, causing it to work up to five times harder than normal.

Meanwhile, the diameter of blood vessels throughout the body decreases, forcing blood into muscles and raising blood pressure dramatically.

All of these changes help your body function at optimum capacity in an actual life-threatening situation, Williams says. "On the other hand, if you're merely sitting in traffic or waiting in a supermarket line, all these changes still take place, but serve no useful function," he said.

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Williams' research also showed that when a person gets angry, fat is released into his bloodstream. If it isn't burned off through exercise, the fat will simply turn into cholesterol, he said. (128K AIFF or WAV sound)

In fact, intense and frequent aerobic exercise is just what Williams and other experts recommend to help reduce the fat, let off the steam, and ensure that your arteries are never as clogged as the freeway home from work.

Though research shows men are more likely to be aggressively angry, women are also prone to the same physical ailments associated with anger.

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