My husband, age 40, has had a heart attack. We’ve changed our lifestyle and have decided to now really live the Adventist health message. I worry about two issues: he has a family history of cardiac disease, and he’s very quick-tempered and generally a hostile person. Do these latter issues predispose to repeated heart attacks?
You’ve made an excellent decision to change your lifestyle. Approximately one in four survivors of a heart attack or stroke will have another one. When believed, practiced, and lived, the Adventist health message has been proved to reduce cardiovascular disease. It’s going to take much discipline and the Lord’s grace and empowerment, but it’s infinitely worthwhile to make this lifestyle change.
The traditional risk factors for coronary artery disease and heart attacks include:
High cholesterol and lipid disorders
Additionally, night-shift work, stress, and chronic inflammation are now considered risk factors.
All but gender, age, and family history may be changed and modified and reduced by careful, focused treatment and consistent lifestyle interventions. Family history plays a significant role in determining our susceptibility to such diseases as heart attacks and cancer. Work closely with your health-care provider. Additionally, it’s important to remember that the lifestyle changes (including for your children) need to be adopted for life, not just for the short term.
Regarding anger and hostility, these emotions stimulate the release of hormones such as adrenaline (epinephrine), norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and cortisol. Heart rate accelerates, the contraction of the heart increases, and the blood pressure rises. This creates an environment in which fragile plaque (pockets of fat, cholesterol, and macrophages [white blood cells] in the arterial wall) burst open and stimulate the formation of dangerous blood clots, which obstruct the artery and damage the heart muscle during a heart attack. Sustained and repetitive physiological responses to anger and anxiety are not healthy.
It’s been shown that heart function can be negatively affected by mental stress and anger in patients with heart failure. There are studies in progress to establish whether ongoing anger and hostility can cause a second heart attack in those who already have had their first cardiac event. It’s been demonstrated that patients chronically wrestling with these negative emotions have a higher likelihood of dying with the second heart attack.¹
Ongoing bouts of anger/hostility and anxiety require constructive help. Primarily, we seek divine healing of our emotions. Professional counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) within the Christian paradigm may be needed and can be helpful.
May your family take courage from the promise of the spiritual, emotional, and physical rest that Jesus has given us: “Come to me . . . and I will give you rest. . . . Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28, 29, NIV).
“We must not trust at all to ourselves nor to our good works; but when as erring, sinful beings we come to Christ, we may find rest in His love.”²
Thankfully—there is hope!
¹ Tracey K. Vitori, Susan K. Frazier, Martha J. Biddle, et al., “Hostility Predicts Mortality but Not Recurrent Acute Coronary Syndrome,” European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, Sept. 14, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1177/1474515120950913. ² Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980), book 1, p. 354.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.
Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.