Depression, Anger and Heart Disease

It has been found that the traditional indicators of heart disease such as smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure account for about 50% of heart attacks. In trying to account for the rest the focus has moved to psychosocial factors – personality and behavior which give rise to stress hormones. Chronic stress, Type A personality, anger, depression and social isolation not only have a direct negative effect on the cardiovascular system but they also increase the effects of other cardiac factors. This article looks at two of these factors – depression and anger.

Anger People who have a high level of anger, irritability, cynicism and aggression are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. A heart attack is almost three times more likely in people with high levels of anger than in those who don’t experience much anger. Feeling angry from time to time is normal. Some people express anger readily while others fume about a situation. When anger is experienced in relation to a specific event and the amount of anger felt is appropriate to the event then it is usually not a health risk. However, if the anger surfaces too readily and lasts too long and is suppressed and not expressed, then it may become a cardiovascular risk factor.

The following test adapted from Pistcatella and Frankin (2003) will help you to assess you level of anger.

Read each of the statements below and grade yourself on how you would respond to each situation using the following scale.

1 = never, 2 = rarely, 3 = often, 4 = always

1. It doesn’t take much to get me mad.

2. People tell me I should calm down.

3. I blow up at terrible drivers.

4. If I’m upset I’ll hit the dog or cat or something else.

5. People call me hot headed.

6. I’m furious about the way that I get treated at a restaurants or stores.

7. When other people’s mistakes slow me down I can get upset for the whole day.

8. If the situation is bad enough I throw things.

9. I swear loudly to blow off steam.

10. I feel like hitting someone who makes me very angry.

11. I’ve been told I have a bad temper.

12. If you embarrass me in front of someone, I’ll be furious.

13. I’m a very ambitious person, so sometimes I get impatient and angry with other people.

14. I’ve been known to break things when I get frustrated.

If you scored below 18 you are able to stay calm in situations that would frustrate others. This is a big help in managing your stress levels.

If you scored 19 to 27 you get angry about as often as most other people.

If you scored 28 to 35 there is a good possibility that you are under too much stress or it may be that getting angry has become a habit. Take this score seriously and start to make changes now before it adversely affects your health.

If you scored over 35 and you continue with the same behavior and approach to life you risk serious stress related health problems.

Depression The association between depression and heart disease and heart attacks has been established for some time. Depression is reported to precede a heart attack in up to 50% of cases. Apart from the link between depression and heart disease, depression also contributes to a poor lifestyle. Depressed people are more likely to eat poorly, be sedentary, smoke and drink too much alcohol.

How do you know if depression is a problem for you? The following test adapted from one developed by Harvard University is designed to help assess people who are likely to be suffering from depression.

Read the following statements and answer yes or no to them.

1. I feel sad most of the time.

2. I don’t enjoy the things that I used to.

3. I sleep too little or too much.

4. I don’t feel like eating or I eat too much.

5. I can’t make decisions.

6. I have difficulty concentrating.

7. I feel hopeless.

8. I feel worthless.

9. I get tired for no reason.

10. I think about killing myself.

If you answered yes to four or more of these questions and you have felt this way every day for two weeks or more you may be suffering from depression and you should consult a health professional for a more complete assessment.

If you answered yes to question 10 seek health professional assistance immediately, regardless of your answer to any of the other questions.

Depression and anger are two of the factors that can lead to the development of heart disease – with the associated heart attacks, angina, cardiac arrests and heart rhythm disturbances. They also reduce the quality of your life. There are many things that you can do about these problems. If you suffer from mild or moderate depression then you will benefit by joining overcoming depression program.


Aesoph, L. 2001, 6 Steps for Handling Stress, Health World Online. June 2001.

Hippisley-Cox, J. et al.1998, Depression as a risk Factor For Ischemic Heart Disease in Men. British Meical Journal. June 1998.

Pistcatella, J.C. and Frankin, B.A. 2003, Take a Load off Your Heart. Workman.

Oberman, A. 2000, Emerging Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Clinical Reviews. Spring 2000.

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