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Study: Heart disease linked to anger, hostility

Category: Blood and Blood Diseases

New research from Ohio State University has identified a possible reason as to why high levels of anger and hostility are linked to an increased risk of heart disease. It is one of the first studies to look at the impact of psychological and behavioral factors on a blood chemical that is associated with coronary heart disease.

Homocysteine tests revealed that men and women who experience more feeling of anger and hostility than usual also have higher levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood, too much of which can lead to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

"Many studies have shown hostility and anger expression to be potent risk factors for coronary heart disease, but this study is the first to suggest this potential explanation for why they are linked to CHD," said Catherine Stoney, coauthor of the study.

Researchers examined blood samples from 31 unmedicated, healthy men and 33 women. The subjects were given a survey to assess their levels of hostility and anger and how they expressed each. Subjects who experienced above average hostility also had levels of homocysteine that were higher than those of their peers.

The report also examined the difference that gender made on the results of homocysteine tests. As with other studies, men were shown to have higher levels of the chemical than women. Stoney theorized that this is because men hold in their anger more than women do.

Stoney had previously found that psychological stress can have a significant impact on homocysteine levels, causing them to spike temporarily. She noted that homocysteine levels could be linked mostly to stress, since particularly hostile individuals report more life stress.

How to combat high homocysteine levels
The report noted that homocysteine comes from animal protein, and it is usually broken down by folic acid and vitamin B. However, the American Heart Association does not recommend using supplements to combat high levels of the amino acid, since they have not confirmed them as a major cardiovascular disease risk factor.

Instead, the AHA suggests eating a balanced diet that heavily consists of vegetables, whole grains, fruits and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. They noted that the daily recommended intake for folic acid is 400 micrograms, and it can be found in citrus fruits, vegetables, grain products and tomatoes.

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