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Heart Health

Updated 01 October 2020

If you've had a heart attack, hostility can increase your risk of death

Sarcastic, irritable, resentful and cynical heart attack patients can put their lives at risk with their hostile outlook on life.

  • A study found that heart attack survivors that are hostile are more likely to die from a second one
  • This personality trait has been linked to heart disease since the 50s
  • However, the study didn't find that hostile behaviour accurately predicted the chances of another heart attack

Are you sarcastic and irritable; do you resent people and are cynical about life? If you've got heart problems, this attitude could spell trouble for you.

As a personality trait, hostility can make one more susceptible to heart disease, including heart attacks and other acute coronary issues.

READ | Anxious teens may face higher odds for future heart attack

Second heart attack

A recent study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing conducted a large randomised clinical trial to determine how true this might be, especially in heart attack patients, their chances of a second attack, and their likelihood of dying.

They surveyed the data of 2 321 heart attack survivors from the larger PROMOTION study and had them perform a Multiple Adjective Affect Checklist to determine their hostility levels. The participants were monitored for two years for second heart attacks and death.

Most of the respondents were white, married men with an average age of 67 – and 57% were scored as hostile.

This personality trait was a useful predictor of mortality from a second heart attack, but could not accurately predict whether or not it would actually happen.

Lifestyle change

“[Hostility is] not just a one-off occurrence, but characterises how a person interacts with people," said study author Dr Tracey Vitori of the University of Tennessee.

"We know that taking control of lifestyle habits improves the outlook for heart attack patients, and our study suggests that improving hostile behaviours could also be a positive move.” 

The researchers state that while depression and anxiety are generally monitored in patients with heart disease, hostility markers should also be included to determine risk. Educating patients on these hostile behaviours – alongside quitting smoking, exercise and eating healthy – could also be beneficial in promoting lifestyle changes.

READ MORE | Under 50 and had a heart attack? Quit smoking, and you'll live longer

Image credit: Pixabay