Stress, as research has shown, is a killer. Unfortunately, a new study in the journal Circulation reveals that stress-busting exercise can also put you six feet under by giving you a rather inconvenient heart attack.
Jogging or any other fairly intensive form of exercise doubles the risk of having a heart attack within an hour, and becoming incredibly vexed or distressed while doing anything else has a roughly similar – if slightly larger – effect. If you combine the two, however, the risk triples.
“Both can raise blood pressure and heart rate, changing the flow of blood through blood vessels and reducing blood supply to the heart,” lead author Andrew Smyth, a researcher at the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Canada, said in a statement.
In the largest study of its kind to date, a team of researchers analyzed data given by 12,461 patients from 52 countries in order to determine what the most common precursors to heart attacks were. All of the patients did not have a heart attack prior to the one they were describing in the study.
About 13 percent had been exercising or engaging in a physically strenuous activity, and 14 percent were in a state of emotional stress. After cross-referencing thousands of cases, the researchers found that the combination of both is particularly deadly. The team made sure to take other extenuating factors into account, including their body fat, blood pressure value, and smoking habits.
It’s important to note, however, that the average age of the patients was 58, so this study only really applies to those around or approaching that age. It’s also worth highlighting that, as always, these risk values make the threat of a heart attack sound a lot worse than it actually is.
Although men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 are more likely to have a heart attack than younger members of society, the risk varies quite dramatically between individuals. Those with a healthy cardiovascular system, with normal blood cholesterol levels, normal blood pressures, and non-smokers will be far less likely than unhealthier people to have heart attacks in the first place.
The risk of having a heart attack while angrily exercising may increase for everyone, but for young and healthy people, the chance of them keeling over is already very low.
Of course, exercise itself has many health benefits. This study simply warns us that extremes can be hazardous, and that the mind and body are connected in more ways than we often acknowledge.
If this research has in fact put you off that additional spin class, you could always try exercising your brain instead. Reading a book can let you live up to two years longer than non-readers.