When someone cuts you off on a busy highway, do you pound the steering wheel in fury and shout at the driver? Or do you swallow your anger and dwell on it later?
Either way, you're not being kind to your heart, researchers say.
If you respond to every anger-inducing situation by blowing your stack or by holding it in, you could be setting yourself up for serious heart problems.
Why? It's simple. According to Ohio State University researchers, there's evidence that people who respond rigidly to anger-provoking events are likely to wind up with significantly elevated levels of artery-damaging cholesterol.
Experts suggest that the best response to anger-provoking situations is to be creative and flexible. It's important to turn off the anger as soon as possible to reduce its physiological effects.
In subjects who always reacted to an anger-provoking situation in the same negative way, researchers found levels of "bad" or LDL cholesterol ranked higher, regardless of whether they expressed the anger or held it in.
Researchers also found that those who were flexible, but who hid their anger slightly more often than showing it, had the lowest levels of "bad" and total cholesterol.
Why does intense anger trigger the release of lipids (fats) from the tissues into the bloodstream? The body releases the fatty substances for energy as part of its "fight or flight" survival response to perceived danger.
In some situations, the healthiest response is to insist quietly on your rights, which will soon defuse the anger. Still, remain under control and don't become aggressive.
Other survival-threatening situations (such as being chewed out by the boss) must be endured in silence until you can slip away to burn off the negative energy, perhaps through a brisk walk or some vigorous kick-boxing.