By following more than 2,000 patients who had recently suffered a heart attack, researchers at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville found that those who showed hostility and irritability had a higher risk of recurrence.
Will hostility be on the list of risk factors for heart attacks soon?
According to a report published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), this is quite possible.
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According to its authors, people who are hostile and have already had a heart attack are more likely to see a recurrence than other patients.
An additional risk factor
“Hostility is a personality trait that includes being sarcastic, cynical, resentful, impatient or irritable,” says Dr. Tracey Vitori of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. It’s not a one-time event, but a characteristic that characterizes how one person interacts with others. In her opinion, improving the character and behavior of heart attack patients, such as quitting smoking or playing sports, is a way to take control of one’s lifestyle and thus avoid the risk of recurrence.
To reach this conclusion, Dr. Vitori and her colleagues followed 2,321 patients with previous heart attacks for 24 months. Their hostility was first measured using a questionnaire called MAACL (Multiple Adjective Affect Checklist), which measures personality traits. The average age of the participants was 67 years, 68% were men and 57% were classified as hostile by the personality test.
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When comparing the occurrence of heart attacks and the number of deaths in 24 months with the test results, the researchers concluded that hostility is a risk factor for the recurrence of a heart attack, along with anxiety and stress.
Warning to curious patients
“Since the 1950s, hostility has been associated with cardiovascular diseases, but we still don’t fully understand why. Our study shows that hostility is a common characteristic among survivors of heart attacks and is associated with bad outcomes. More research is needed on how this characteristic affects the body,” says Dr. Vitori, who advocates the addition of an assessment of hostility as a risk factor for the recurrence of a heart attack. This would help identify patients at risk of premature death. There is also a need to educate patients about the possible effects of their bad mood on their heart health in order to motivate them to change their behavior.
“Heart patients can do a lot to take control of their own health. From a physical point of view: stop smoking, increase physical activity, and eat a balanced diet. Our study also suggests that managing bad moods can be important,” concludes Dr. Vitori.
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Hostility predicts mortality but not recurrent acute coronary syndrome