In the popular imagination, anger has long been linked to cardiovascular diseases (CVD), but empirical validation from case-control and prospective studies emerged only in the 1970's. After describing the multidimensional nature of anger and its assessment (via self-report or observed in structured interviews), this paper selectively reviews evidence in (a) behavioral epidemiology, (b) stress and biological processes with implications for cardiopathogenesis, and (c) behavioral/pharmacological interventions for anger/hostility reduction. Although evidence is inconsistent, chronic feelings of anger, cynical distrust and antagonistic behavior are at least modestly associated with risk of both initiation and progression of CVD. Anger/hostility also is linked to stress exposure and reactivity, exaggerated autonomic function, reduced heart rate variability, platelet aggregation and inflammation. Clinical and pharmacologic treatment of anger/hostility has the potential to reduce anger and its health-damaging effects. Limitations, including third-variable explanations and overlap among the negative emotions, and implications for cardiology and behavioral medicine research and practice are discussed.
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