Feature Archive

Avoid a Broken Heart

How attitudes and emotional states affect the heart.

WebMD Feature Your lover is cheating on you. Your job has just been relocated to Taiwan. Your brother wants to borrow another grand. And to top it off, your cat's been scratching your antique divan. It doesn't help at this point for your doctor to tell you that hostility is bad for your heart.

That, however, has been the message of years of research. People who are chronically angry are more likely to get heart disease. Depression, too, puts you at risk for heart disease -- as well as for cancer, diabetes, and a long list of other ailments.

But along with the warnings, finally comes a little good news. Researchers reported in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings that hostile people not only are more likely to fall prey to heart disease, but also are more likely to benefit from treatment.

The research linking anger to heart problems has a long history that goes back to at least the 1960s, when California cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman first coined the term "type A" to describe edgy, impatient people and showed that these people were more likely to have heart attacks.

Depression Congestion

But anger isn't the only kind of unhappiness that can harm the heart. Researchers in Norway discovered that patients with congestive heart failure who also suffered from severe depression were four times more likely to die within two years of treatment than patients who weren't depressed.