Want to live longer? Put that anger to good use.

Has your anger ever caused pain to a loved one? Well, it turns out it may not be just them you’re hurting.

You’re hurting yourself, too.

If your friends or family members are always telling you to calm down, it’s because you should. Getting angry isn’t healthy. This is a claim that is backed up by scientific studies.

Your emotions can be so powerful that they immediately send your brain into a flurry of activity. That single spark of anger causes an instantaneous string of responses from the amygdala, hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland.

An unhappy chain of events you want to avoid…

The very moment you feel you’re angry, your amygdala is instantly activated. As soon as this happens, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) which acts as a signal to the pituitary gland to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).

ACTH acts as a stimulant for the adrenal glands to secrete the infamous trio of stress hormones: cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.

As harmless-sounding as they seem, these stress hormones actually have negative effects that you may not be aware of. They increase your heart rate, blood pressure, blood fat and sugar levels.  Your blood flow is lessened, your metabolism drops, and your eye sight is negatively affected. Plus, your immune system is weakened.

Have I also mentioned that increased levels of stress hormones also increase the risk for cancer? They do! So keep that in mind the next time you are on the verge of getting angry.

There are two areas in the brain that are mostly susceptible to cortisol – the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the hippocampus. Your prefrontal cortex is the one responsible for your sound judgment and good decisions. Your hippocampus deals with memory.

Are you killing your brain cells?

Because high levels of cortisol kill brain cells (also called neurons), these two areas often bear the brunt of neuron loss.

As you bid your prefrontal cortex neurons goodbye, you might as well also say goodbye to your ability to make sound decisions and good judgment.

Conversely, the loss of brain cells in the area of the hippocampus will result in memory problems. You’ll have problems with your short term memory recall and the damage will interfere with the formation of new memories.

Getting angry doesn’t do you any good. With the increase in cortisol comes the resultant decrease of the happiness hormone, serotonin. This will make you feel depressed, emotionally sensitive, and prone to aggressive behavior.

Imagine yourself involved in a heated argument. You desperately want to remember the little details that led to your blow up. Or perhaps you are trying mighty hard to remember one strong point that you wish to make to seal your victory. In your frustration, and in lack of better judgment, you suddenly punch the person you are arguing with – which lands you in jail.

You can blame it on cortisol but you know that it is not admissible in court.

So try to channel your feelings into something positive. Clean your house. Take up a sport. Do something that matters. That unchanneled anger isn’t helping your longevity!

How anger affects your mind and body. Click the image to download a large version of the infographic.)
How anger affects your mind and body.
(Click the image to download a large version of the infographic.)

Anger takes away more than the joy in your life. It’s stealing years off it as well.

Do you know that the wrong foods can have a dramatic effect on your moods? If you’re prone to anger, you might find this post especially interesting