Feelings of rage can make those vulnerable to heart problems up to 10 times more likely to need life-saving treatment to correct their heartbeat.
The research follows previous studies which have shown that earthquakes, war or even the loss of a World Cup Soccer match can increase rates of death from sudden cardiac arrest, in which the heart stops circulating blood.
"It's definitely been shown in all different ways that when you put a whole population under a stressor that sudden death will increase," said Dr. Rachel Lampert of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, whose study appears in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. "Our study starts to look at how does this really affect the electrical system of the heart."
Dr Lambert and colleagues studied 62 patients with heart disease and implantable heart defibrillators or devices that can detect dangerous heart rhythms or arrhythmias and deliver an electrical shock to restore a normal heart beat.
Patients took part in an exercise in which they recounted a recent angry episode while Lampert's team performed to measure electrical instability in the heart.
Dr Lampert said the team specifically asked questions to make patients angry. "We found anger did increase this electrical instability in these patients," she said.
They subsequently followed patients for three years to see which patients later had a cardiac arrest and needed a shock from their implantable defibrillator.
"The people who had the highest anger-induced electrical instability were 10 times more likely than everyone else to have an arrhythmia in follow-up," said Dr Lambert. "It says anger really does impact the heart's electrical system in very specific ways that can lead to sudden death."
She stressed the results did not imply those with normal, healthy hearts were necessarily at greater risk of a cardiac arrest resulting from anger..