Let it out. According to new German research, keeping your fear, anger, or anxiety to yourself can boost your risk for high blood pressure, known to be a serious risk factor for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.
A meta-analysis in Health Psychologies looked at 22 studies of more than 6,000 patients and found that when exposed to a stressful task, “repressors”–people who bottle up their emotions instead of expressing them–have a higher heart rate and pulse ratio than non-repressors. And even though they pretend to not be anxious at all, they actually show more signs of stress and anxiety, like sweating and an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, says study author Marcus Mund, Ph.D., a professor at Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany.
How come? One theory is that if you chronically repress negative thoughts, a part of your nervous system–the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which controls your reactions to stress–becomes hyperactive, releasing cortisol and increasing blood pressure, Mund says.
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