London — Last week, my brother-in-law — who suffers from heart disease and high blood pressure — was having a rant at the breakfast table about “the collapse of civilisation” (his words). My sister, seeing his face redden and eyes bulge as he became increasingly animated, began to worry seriously that he could be about to give himself a heart attack.

To check that he wasn’t, she went to fetch his sphygmomanometer. They were both rather startled by what it showed: his blood pressure was the lowest it had been all week. Had his rant actually been good for him?..

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