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Beware Extremes: Exercise, Anger May Trigger Heart Attack

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Working out that angry stress? You may want to wait until you calm down.

A Canadian study shows intense exercise when you're mad could be hazardous to your health.

"Increasingly, we're recognizing the relationship between different types of stress and your risk for heart disease, whether that's physiologic stress or emotional stress," says Dr. Travis Wilson, a cardiologist with the Allegheny Health Network.

The study looked at more than 12,000 people having their first heart attack, average age 58.

"To their credit, it was a very global study. They included 52 different countries, and people of all ages, all ethnicities," Dr. Wilson points out.

They were surveyed about being angry and their level of exertion an hour before their heart attack, and at the same time the day before for comparison.

Being angry was linked to twice the risk. Heavy exertion, too.

"Many patients who are hunters, pulling a heavy deer out of the woods. That would be a classic example of very strenuous activity that you're not doing for a long period of time, and you certainly don't do every day," he cites as an example.

But anger along with exertion? Triple the risk.

It's possible stress hormones in the body play a role in causing a built up plaque to suddenly rupture and block a coronary artery.

This type of study is what we call observational. It relies on what people recall, and what people perceive as strenuous. This type of study can't prove cause and effect. What shouldn't happen is for people to stop exercising all together.

"It's been shown time and time again that there are many long term benefits of exercise," Dr. Wilson emphasizes.

Before starting an exercise program, talk to your doctor. For some people, an EKG, or even a stress test, might be in order.

"While exercise is a very good way to relieve stress, and a very healthy way, there are limitations to your physical capabilities, and you need to recognize those. Especially when you're angry," says Dr. Wilson.

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