Barry A. Franklin, PhD, director of preventive cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, has identified five emotional and physical stressors that can temporarily increase the risk of a cardiovascular event such as strokes and heart attacks.  While the risks are highest in people with heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, physical and emotional stress can also affect healthy people.

     Physical stresses which can trigger strokes and heart attacks include overexertion such as shoveling snow and strenuous winter sports such as cross-country skiing. A combination of a diseased heart, cold temperatures and unaccustomed physical activity can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 50 to 100 times over those who don't exert themselves.  For people who don't normally exercise, shoveling snow or skiing can cause increases in blood pressure and heart rate at the same time that breathing cold air is constricting the arteries. In addition, people skiing tend to be at higher altitudes with a lower pressure of oxygen in the air making increased demands in the heart.

    Another physical stressor which can trigger a cardiovascular event is having sex. This is particularly true in extra-marital sex which can cause a greater level of arousal than normal  and cause the heart rate to increase by as much as 30 beats per minute which can put extra demand on the heart.  One report indicated that around 80% of heart attack deaths which took place during or after sex took place in hotel rooms where the sex partner was not their spouse. Researchers do not believe sex is risky for people who are physically active and having sex with a regular partner or spouse.

   Emotional stressors can be just as dangerous in increasing the risk for a heart attack or stroke.  Bad news like learning of the death of a loved one or getting bad health news immediately elevates your risk for a heart attack.  THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE reported that the risk of having a heart attack is highest on the day bad news is received.  The risk continues to remain high for at least a month afterwards.

    Another emotional trigger which could activate a cardiovascular event is watching sports.  This is important for those who are really invested and passionate about their team.  When true fans get really excited, the heart rate can increase by as much as 100 beats per minute which could rigger arrthythmias or clots.

    Extreme anger can also raise your risk for a heart attack.  Just being aggravated does not raise your risk but extreme anger can trigger an increase in blood clots, heartbeat irregularities and constriction of arteries.

    There are things you can do for each of these risks. If you are normally quiet sedentary, don't shovel snow.  Buy a snow blower or hire someone to shovel your snow.  If you are a sedentary, amateur skiier, start increasing your activity level well before your ski trip.  And dress for the cold weather including a scarf to cover your nose and mouth. exercise regularly for safer sex and choose a regular partner or spouse.  Become less invested in sporting events and take any heart medication prescriptions regularly. If you have received bad news, spend time with loved ones and other people who care. Consider therapy for extreme anger and get medical advice from your doctor. All of these risks are greatest in people who don't exercise, are overweight and who smoke.

    Dr, Franklin is coauthor with Joseph C. Piscatella, of PREVENT, HALT AND REVERSE HEART DISEASE.  Learn more about how you can lower your risk for heart attacks and strokes. Remember hypnotherapy can be a valuable tool to make positive changes to decrease your risk of stroke and heart attack.



      Almost every evening on the news there is a report about uncontrolled anger ruining lives.  Road rage incidents, school bullying, workplace' school shootings and other violent crimes are common place.  Though some of these are organized by criminal organizations, many of them are caused because of people who cannot control their anger.

     Very few people can completely eliminate anger in their life.  Sometimes it can be helpful in signaling to others that important needs are not being met.  So in small amounts, anger can actually be a helpful emotion to express those needs and to solve problems.

     But this emotion can be very destructive when it is not controlled.  It can cause a great deal of misery not only for the recipient of a person's anger but for the angry person as well.  It can damage relationships both personally and in a working environment. It also can cause or contribute to many illnesses.

    If a person cannot control anger, the fight-or-flight response kicks in with a release of adrenalin and an increase in muscle tension.  Muscles tighten when you are angry to help you fight or run.  In other words, you get "up tight". When the muscles in your neck, jaw, shoulders and back tighten up, it can cause soreness or pain in the muscles and skeletal system.

     When the fight-or-flight response activates, your heart beats faster and your blood pressure elevates.  This increases the risk for developing coronary heart disease.  In addition, your liver releases more fat into your blood and your blood cells become "sticky".  These are normal reactions to protect you - the stickiness in the blood cells is to protect you from bleeding out in case of an injury.  The fat is released to give more energy for the muscles to burn.  But all of these reactions increase the risk of your having a stroke or heart attack.

     Digestive and breathing problems can also occur. Stomach and gastrointestinal problems such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), acid reflux,and nausea can occur when long held anger turns inward.  Throat constriction, shallow breathing and the feeling of having heaviness in the chest can happen as respiration speeds up in order to send blood to the muscles and brain.

      Besides these negative health issues, anger can cause you to just not feel good.  You may feel edgy and have very little energy.  Many of my clients complain that they just "can't relax" or "don't know how to relax".  So what can you do to manage your anger?  If you  feel like you are angry more often or all the time, it's time to seek professional help.  Ask your medical doctor or find an anger-management expert through the American Psychological Association.  

    If you do not think you are at that level of need but would like some tools to control your anger, there are some simple techniques you might try.  Step outside yourself and try to view a situation that makes you angry from a distance.   Evaluate how high your anger is by picturing a yardstick and imagining an arrow pointing at the number you are at then consciously begin to drop the number.  Deep breathing down into the abdominal cavity and exhaling slowly can help you to feel more calm and safe.  As you breathe in think "I am", and as you exhale, think "relaxed".    Imagine blowing the anger out as you exhale.  Muscle relaxation will help you relax.  Practicing deep breathing and muscle relaxation strengthens your control.

   Clinical hypnotherapy can be a great tool to control anger by working to deal with the underlying issues and helping to work with the techniques described above.  Control your anger and BE WELL.