Women who keep anger bottled up may be more at risk of a stroke

Why you SHOULD get it off your chest: Scientists find women who keep anger bottled up are more likely to have plaque in their arteries that can trigger a stroke

  • Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh analysed 304 women
  • Women were asked how often they express anger or put someone else first
  • Ultrasound scans assessed the levels of plaque in their carotid arteries 

Expressing how you feel may not just be good for your mental wellbeing – it could also prevent strokes. 

Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh found bottling up anger is linked to a build of a plaque in the carotid arteries in women.

These arteries supply blood to the brain, with a narrowing being a leading cause of life-threatening strokes, they claim.

Prolonged stress has been linked to inflammation, which is known to trigger stroke, heart attacks and chest pain, past research suggests.  

Expressing how your feel may not just be good for your mental wellbeing (stock)

‘Given increased public health interest in women’s experiences in intimate relationships, our results suggest women’s socio-emotional expression may be relevant to their cardiovascular health,’ lead author Dr Karen Jakubowski said.

‘Studies like this one are valuable as they highlight the importance of understanding how a woman’s emotional disposition can affect her physical health.

‘These results should encourage healthcare providers to take into consideration socio-emotional factors when outlining a preventive care plan for their patients.’

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the US, with more than 140,000 people dying from the condition every year, Stroke Center statistics show.

In the UK, stroke is the fourth biggest killer, with over 100,000 incidents taking place annually, according to the Stroke Association. 

Atherosclerosis is a leading cause of stroke. If plaque ruptures, it can form a blood clot that further blocks the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. 

Women are more at risk of stroke than men and are less likely to recover, statistics show. This has been linked to the menstrual cycle, hormonal contraceptives and pregnancy complications. 

The scientists, led by Karen Jakubowski, were interested to discover the role so-called ‘self-silencing’ could play. 

Many people hold their thoughts and emotions inside in an effort to avoid arguments or the breakdown of a relationship, they wrote.

However, self-silencing has been linked to both poor mental and physical health in women.

To understand how it affects the heart, the scientists analysed 304 women, aged 40-to-60 who were all nonsmokers.

The women were asked how often they express anger or put someone else’s needs before their own. 

Ultrasound scans assessed the level of plaque in their carotid arteries, which deliver blood to the brain and head.

Results found the participants who ‘kept it all bottled up’ were more likely to have atherosclerosis. 

The full results will be presented at The North American Menopause Society annual meeting in Chicago.

It is unclear exactly why this occurred, however, past studies suggest stress increases activity in the area of the brain called the amygdala.

This then signals the bone marrow to produce more white blood cells, which play a key role in the immune system. 

More white blood cells may cause the arteries to become inflamed, past research suggests.


Women who suffer from high blood pressure during pregnancy may be more at risk of heart disease in later life, research suggests.

Scientists from King’s College London analysed the health records of 1.3 million women, who together had been pregnant nearly 1.9 million times.

They found the women who had high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia were more at risk of a heart attack, stroke or heart failure over the next 20 years.

These women were also twice as likely to die from heart disease over the two decades and 4.5 times more at risk of chronic high blood pressure.

Study author Professor Lucy Chappell said: ‘These results clearly show we should now look at how we share this information with women who have had pregnancy hypertension.

‘And we need to find out what interventions work for these women so that they can reduce their risk of heart disease later in life. 

‘It is essential we work with women and all the healthcare professionals involved in their care so that we can tailor the interventions appropriately to this period of a woman’s life.’ 


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