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Could Anger Be Making You Sick?

Have you ever been so angry you uttered the words “I could just kill someone?”  Of course you would never kill anyone – at least I hope not!!  But by saying these words you may be slowly unintentionally shortening a person’s life – your own.  Anger has a significant and devastating effect on your mental health and, this may come as a surprise, your physical health too.

 It all starts with a rise in adrenaline, leading to an increase in blood pressure.  You can feel your heart start pounding and your blood boil as you become more enraged.  Increased adrenaline over a long period of time significantly stresses the heart and increases risk of stroke and heart disease.  Chronically high levels of this flight or fight hormone also depresses your immune system.  A depressed immune system can make you more susceptible to colds, flu, infection and even cancer.  Instead of keeping anger bottled up try going for a brisk walk or a good workout to release the frustration you feel inside.

 During times of hostility our body releases other hormones such as cortisol.  Chronically high levels of cortisol have detrimental effects on your body causing impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances and increased abdominal fat.  Increased abdominal fat carries a higher risk for health problems than fat deposited in any other area of the body.  So before you let anger raise your stress levels and seriously compromise your heath take a step back and consider if it is really worth it.

Situations that cause anger and frustration make us feel emotionally tense and this tension often transfers to our bodies.  This is most commonly felt in the shoulder and neck area, leading to a stiff painful neck and headaches.  Another common area to hold muscle tension is in the jaw muscles causing grinding of the teeth and a sore painful jaw in the morning.  Chronic grinding of your teeth can eventually wear them down.  Consulting with your dentist regarding a bite splint to prevent excessive wear on your teeth is important.  However, reflecting on areas of frustration in your life is essential for dealing with the root cause of your jaw pain, grinding teeth and headaches.

We can’t eliminate stress and anger in our life, but we can control our reactions to these situations.  Even when life is going well you can’t control the driver who cuts you off or the line up at the grocery store.  Try one of the following next time you feel your blood pressure rising: breathing exercises, listening to music, yoga, meditation, guided imagery or councelling.  Lighten up a little and you will live longer and happier!!

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