Why you SHOULD forgive and forget - it's good for your heart

  • Those who thought about a hurtful event in a forgiving way were protected from spikes in blood pressure
  • Hypertension increases the risk of heart attack and stroke

They say to err is human, to forgive divine. But new research has revealed that excusing people who have hurt you can actually boost your health.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, found those people who let go of their anger were less likely to see spikes in blood pressure.
They asked just over 200 volunteers to think about a time when a friend had offended them. Half of the group were told to think about how it had angered them while the other half were encouraged to consider it in a more forgiving way.
Forgive and forget? Those who do could be protecting their heart
Forgive and forget? Those who do could be protecting their heart
The particpants were then all distracted for five minutes after which they were told to think about the event again in any way they chose.
The participants were wired  up to monitors, which took blood pressure and heart rate readings.
The team, led by Dr Britta Larsen, found the angry group saw the greatest increase in blood pressure compared to the forgiving group after the first ruminating session. The effect was seen later on despite having the brief timeout period to calm down. However, there was no differences in heart rate.
The authors said that although it was small study, their research - published in the Journal of Biobehavioural Medicines - suggested forgiveness could 'lower reactivity' to stressful events and even offer 'sustained protection' from the physical impact.
Short-term rises in blood pressure are not known to be harmful. However, over a longer period high blood pressure - or hypertension - increases the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Around 30 per cent of adults in the UK have hypertension although many are unaware of it as there aren't obvious symptoms. Those most at risk are overweight, are of African or Caribbean descent, consume a lot of salt, don't exercise much, drink large amounts of coffee and are aged over 65.
The NHS recommends that all adults have their blood pressure checked every five years.