High blood pressure: please don’t be nervous! – wissenschaft.de

Red faces, extreme irritability and a tendency to outbursts of cholera: It has long been said that men, especially those with high blood pressure, get angry particularly quickly, and that this tendency may even be responsible for their high blood pressure. A German-Swiss research team has now investigated whether there is any truth to this assumption. Result: Hypertensive men tend to interpret other people’s facial expressions as anger. Those who had more tantrums themselves and were more easily infected with the anger of others also showed worsening of their hypertension several years later.

High blood pressure is considered to be one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and death from heart attack and stroke. Therefore, it is important to prevent or at least treat high blood pressure at an early stage. The problem, however, is that in the vast majority of cases, no clear organic cause can be found. Experts then talk about primary hypertension. However, it has long been assumed that certain psychological factors may increase the tendency to hypertension. For example, because anger and resentment naturally raise blood pressure, it is suspected that choleric personalities may be more likely to suffer from hypertension. However, data on this has been inconclusive so far and there was a lack of information on the psychosocial component.

Can anger increase high blood pressure?

This is why Alisa Auer of the University of Konstanz and her colleagues have now studied the anger responses of men with and without hypertension in more detail. As part of their research, they first showed 145 people portraits of people with facial expressions characterized by different emotions. Each of the computer processed faces displayed an imitative mix of two emotional expressions such as fear and anger, sadness and anger, or joy and anger. Each of these two emotions had a different weight. The participants were now asked to indicate what emotions they saw on their faces. Evaluation of this experiment showed: “People with hypertension recognized anger more than any other emotion,” reports Auer. “They overestimated the anger in the faces shown compared to our comparison group for normal blood pressure.”

At the same time, the research team examined the subject’s tendency to self-anger with a standardized psychological test. At first, she couldn’t find anything abnormal: on average, men with high blood pressure reacted with anger just as often or less frequently than subjects with normal blood pressure values. However, after Auer and her colleagues tracked the health of the participants, and their blood pressure in particular, for several years, an anomaly ensued: the blood pressure of those who got angry faster rose much more over time than the men who reacted with greater sensitivity. to the alleged anger of others, but they weren’t upset themselves, the team reported.

An approach to better prevention and therapy

Scientists concluded that anger and anger may actually play a role in the long-term development of blood pressure. “Our results suggest that men with essential hypertension have a distorted perception of anger – and that it is the overestimation of anger in others, combined with a tendency to get angry, that promotes long-term increases in blood pressure,” Auer and her colleagues say. They hope these findings could also help prevent and treat those affected in the future. So far, drugs for high blood pressure can only alleviate the effects of high blood pressure, but have no causal effect.

“The next step would then be for people with essential hypertension to receive more targeted support,” says Auer. This can happen, for example, through targeted psychotherapy that helps those affected to ease their own cholera streak. Training can also be helpful to help these men correct their bloated perceptions of anger in others. But what about women? So far, the research team has focused only on men, as they are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure. However, they hope to be able to study the anger responses of women with and without hypertension in follow-up studies.

Source: Alisa Auer (University of Konstanz) et al., Annals of Behavioral Medicine; doi: 10.1093 / abm / kaab108

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