The study by researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine in the US is the first to show how emotion triggers a distinct pattern of electrical activity that contributes to arrhythmias — abnormal heart rhythms.
The researchers who monitored a group of 62 patients found that those with high levels of anger-induced electrical cardiac activity called T-wave alternans were more likely to experience arrhythmias than patients with low levels of this electrical activity.
“Our study identified individuals vulnerable to increased electrical instability due to emotion,” said Rachel Lampert, associate professor of medicine at Yale who has been exploring how mental stress can disturb heart rhythms.
The researchers studied patients with heart problems who had implantable cardioverter-defibrillators — small, battery-powered devices in the chest from where they constantly monitor the heart rate and rhythm.
When the device detects abnormal heart rhythms, it delivers an electrical shock to the heart muscle to stop the arrhythmia and return the heart to its normal rhythm.
The study examined incidence of arrhythmias over three years and found that patients with arrhythmias had higher T-wave alternans induced by anger than patients who had not experienced arrhythmias.
Arrhythmias of concern are rare in healthy people. “The implications of our findings are for the increasing number of people who have survived a heart attack or are living with heart failure,” Lampert told The Telegraph.
Cardiologists believe it is important to identify patients who are at risk of developing life-threatening arrhythmias. The results suggest that therapy to help patients deal with anger and other negative emotions may reduce arrhythmias, said Lampert.
Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)