The stereotypical image of the angry person suddenly clutching his or her chest might have found some physical evidence. Not just stress but strong emotions may lead to potentially lethal ventricular arrhythmias.
Researchers studied 62 patients with implantable cardioverter-defibrillators who underwent monitoring during a mental stress test that asked them to recall a recent situation in which they were angry.
Researchers measured the patients' T-wave alternans (TWA) and then followed them for a mean of 37 months to determine who had arrhythmias that triggered their pacemakers. Patients with higher levels of anger-induced TWA were more likely to trigger their pacemakers--a predictor of heightened risk of up to ten times that of other patients.
Combining exercise tests with mental stress test may help clinicians better select patients likely to have arrhythmia and benefit from a defibrillator, and it might provide insight for patients who can't exercise, researchers wrote in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Naturally, therapies focused on helping patients deal with anger and other negative emotions may help reduce arrhythmias and, therefore, sudden cardiac death in certain patients. It's not the first time anger's been linked to heart disease, but researchers said we are beginning to understand how anger and other types of mental stress can trigger potentially lethal ventricular arrhythmias.