Volume 96, Issue 86
Thursday, March 13, 2003

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Angry men be warned: screaming + yelling = dying

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

Look out Dick Cheney – you may not be the only one in the Oval Office with a high risk of a heart attack.

According to a new study by psychologist Mark Ketterer from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, the occurrence of heart disease in young men stems from their inability to handle stress and their tendency to anger quickly. Ketterer concluded that these traits, passed down genetically, pose a greater risk to young men between the ages of 25 and 79 than traditional factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

Men with such a family history develop heart disease 12 years sooner than those without any prior case, and women only two years sooner, Ketterer said, adding women get the disease 10 to 12 years later in life than men.

"We recruited 50 males and 50 females with known heart diseases, and looked at what correlates with heart disease," Ketterer said. "The study shows it's not the protection factor of females, but the propensity [to stress or anger] of males. Men get the disease [earlier] than women [because men] inherit the propensity to be cranky and frustrated."

"There are a number of studies that say that people with a higher level of anger and hostility are at a high risk for heart problems," said Graham Reid, a professor of psychology and family medicine at Western.

Brian Baker, spokesman for the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation's Ontario branch and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, was at the conference in Phoenix, Arizona, where Ketterer presented his findings.

Baker explained there is some evidence to support the study, but was hesitant to agree with the results completely. "One thing that is convincing is that if you're depressed and you've already had a heart attack, you're three to four times more likely to die, [either] suddenly or [over time], but your cardiac mortality is increased," he said.

Evidence of anger, anxiety or depression causing a patient's first heart attack is not as convincing as their link to later heart complications, Baker said.

Reid added it is important to note anger and hostility are not the only important psychological and behavioural factors contributing to heart disease.

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