Scientists discovered that people who were angry, emotionally upset or had physically exerted themselves were twice as likely to have a heart attack.
Meanwhile in people who were angry and then attempted to “blow off steam” by exercising intensely, the risk tripled.
“A person who is angry or upset, who wants to exercise to blow off steam, [should] not go beyond their normal routine to extremes of activity,” researchers said.
Heart attacks are one of the most common reasons why a person requires emergency medical treatment. The British Heart Foundation estimates that around 50,000 men and 32,000 women have a heart attack each year in England.
For the new study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, researchers analysed data from more than 12,000 patients in 52 different countries who had experienced heart attacks for the first time.
The average age of those participating in the study was 58 years old.
Participants completed a questionnaire about whether they experienced any of the triggers, such as being angry or physically exerting themselves, in the hour before their heart attack. They were also asked if they had experienced any of the triggers in the same one hour period on the day before their heart attack.
People who were angry or emotionally upset, or who had physically exerted themselves, were twice as likely to have a heart attack.
In people who combined being angry and blowing off steam by exercising heavily, heart attack risk tripled.
Lead author Andrew Smyth, researcher at the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Canada, said extreme emotional and physical triggers are thought to have similar effects on the body.
“Both can raise blood pressure and heart rate, changing the flow of blood through blood vessels and reducing blood supply to the heart,” he said.
“This is particularly important in blood vessels already narrowed by plaque, which could block the flow of blood leading to a heart attack.”
He encouraged people to partake in regular physical activity, as it “has many health benefits”, but added: “A person who is angry or upset who wants to exercise to blow off steam [should] not go beyond their normal routine to extremes of activity.”
Barry Jacobs, an American Heart Association volunteer and director of behavioural sciences at the Crozer-Keystone Family Medicine Residency Program in Springfield, Pennsylvania, said the study provided more evidence of “the crucial link between mind and body”.
“Excess anger, under the wrong conditions, can cause a life-threatening heart attack. All of us should practice mental wellness and avoid losing our temper to extremes,” he said.
“People who are at risk for a heart attack would do best to avoid extreme emotional situations.
“One way many cope with the emotional ups and downs of a health condition is through peer support, talking with others who are facing similar challenges can be very helpful in better managing your own emotions.”