A study dating from 2003 by Suarez, et al. looked at the levels of a protein called Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF). Functionally, TNF is just as delightful a protein as the name implies. It is primarily released by immune cells and its main job is to mark inflammation of the arteries or other tissue so that immune cells know where to target themselves. Atherosclerosis, also known as clogging of the arteries (a prime precursor to heart disease and heart attacks) is a particularly favorite target of this protein.
What does this have to do with taking an anger management class? Well, it turns out that people who have a high level of hostility and physical aggression have a significantly higher level of TNF in their bloodstream. Even those who had moderate or low levels of hostility and aggression were found to have an elevated level of this precursor in their bloodstream. What this means is that you are much more likely to have hardening of the arteries if you walk around with even a relatively low level of anger. People with atherosclerosis are more likely to suffer a heart attack than those without so this has serious implications.
This is only part of the picture. Anger management issues also trigger the release of stress hormone called cortisol. In small doses cortisol can be a good thing as it gives you a quick burst of energy. It’s a survival function, when stressed you need energy to be on your toes and to fight or flee if need be.
Unfortunately prolonged exposure to cortisol (which is typical of people who experience continuous or frequent high levels of stress or anger) can cause your blood sugar to become unbalanced. Unbalanced blood sugar levels have the effect of impairing your ability to think clearly. This can cause a perpetuation of the stress cycle as the less clear you are able to think the more likely you are to experience something as stressful or threatening which keeps your blood sugar off balance.
In the long run elevated cortisol levels can lead to diabetes, a weakened immune system decrease bone density, impaired thyroid function and high blood pressure. Anger management classes can not only change your life; they can literally save it.