13/03/2014 08:56 GMT | Updated 12/05/2014 06:59 BST

How to Lose Your Temper for the Sake of a Healthier Heart


© Glowimages - Models for illustrative purposes only

Be warned. Throwing a wobbly can boomerang back in unexpected ways.

That's the message from a study in this month's European Heart Journal.

Anger significantly increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke in the hours immediately following a flare up, according to findings of Harvard Medical School researchers.

So what's to be done about it?

Further research for one thing. That is, in the Harvard team's somewhat academic language, identifying "effective pharmacological and behavioural interventions to mitigate the risk of cardiovascular events triggered by outbursts of anger".

In other words - according to the first option offered - develop drugs to save the bad-tempered from the self-harming impact of their own short fuse.

Which could prompt the question - wouldn't it be better to develop a system that also benefits those bearing the brunt of the anger?

Thankfully there's the second option proposed by the Harvard team: identifying effective behavioural interventions. When successful, these could not only benefit the perpetrator of anger but those on the receiving end as well.

But could still more be possible? Can the leopard actually change its spots?

Yes. That happened to a friend after he experienced precisely what the Harvard researchers identified: severe heart problems associated with a bad temper. But, through prayer, he gained what he described as "a spiritual resolution" that enabled him not only to control his anger but, eventually, to be freed from it entirely.

A pivotal point came when he found himself arguing with some thoughtful guidance offered by author Mary Baker Eddy: "What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds" (Science and Health with Key to The Scriptures).

"'You can't tell me what I most need!" he angrily reacted. "What I most need is for people to see I'm right!'"

But as he continued to think about this and other ideas in Science and Health, he gradually felt calmer and for some time the chest pains subsided.

However, a little later his temper began to reassert itself and the heart problems returned. Realising he was slipping back into old ways he placed a sign on his desk that amounted to a four-word route map out of anger: "Don't be right--love."

That is, instead of wanting to have the last word, he realised he needed to cultivate those qualities of "patience, meekness, love, and good deeds" he had wrestled with earlier until he felt a "rightness" without needing to win an argument.

His family soon noticed a very welcome difference until, finally, not only did the temper permanently disappear but so did the heart trouble.

Certainly research like that carried out at Harvard serves as a wake-up call to many, yet it offers them no immediate solutions.

So isn't it encouraging to know, as my friend proved to his utter relief, that with patience and persistence it's entirely possible to really lose your temper? And to do so for good!