Getting angry not only spoils your mood, affects your relationships, and drains your energy, but can have a lasting impact on your health. Researchers have found that brief periods of anger can damage your blood vessels and elevate the risk of heart disease and stroke.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, a brief episode of anger triggered by recalling past experiences can hurt the ability of blood vessels to relax, which is crucial for maintaining healthy blood flow.

Studies have shown that when the blood vessels fail to relax, it may increase the risk of atherosclerosis, raising the risk of heart disease and stroke.

"Impaired vascular function is linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Observational studies have linked feelings of negative emotions with having a heart attack or other cardiovascular disease events. The most common negative emotion studied is anger, and there are fewer studies on anxiety and sadness, which have also been linked to heart attack risk," said lead study author Dr. Daichi Shimbo, from the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City in a news release.

The study investigated how negative emotions such as anger, sadness, and anxiety affect the blood vessel function compared to neutral emotion.

The researchers randomly assigned 280 adults to one of four emotional tasks for 8 minutes, which involved recalling a personal memory that made them angry, a memory of anxiety, reading a series of depressing sentences that evoked sadness, or repeatedly counting to 100 to bring an emotionally neutral state.

To evaluate signs of impaired blood vessel dilation, cell injury, or reduced cell repair capacity, the research team evaluated the blood vessels of the participants before the tasks and at four different time points after experiencing the assigned emotional task: 3 minutes, 40 minutes, 70 minutes and 100 minutes.

The results showed that past events causing anger caused impairment in blood vessel dilation, from zero to 40 minutes after the task, but not after the 40-minute mark. However, after experiencing anxiety and sadness, there were no statistically significant changes to participants' blood vessel linings at any time point.

"We saw that evoking an angered state led to blood vessel dysfunction, though we don't yet understand what may cause these changes. Investigation into the underlying links between anger and blood vessel dysfunction may help identify effective intervention targets for people at increased risk of cardiovascular events," Shimbo said.

"This study adds nicely to the growing evidence base that mental well-being can affect cardiovascular health, and that intense acute emotional states, such as anger or stress, may lead to cardiovascular events," Dr. Glenn Levine, writing committee chair of the scientific statement said.