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If you have experienced a heart attack and you have an adversarial personality, new research suggests you might want to consider an attitude adjustment.
An angry outlook may make you vulnerable to a second heart attack, the new study found.
The study included more than 2,300 heart attack survivors, average age 67, who were followed for 24 months. Men accounted for 68% of the patients.
At the start of the study, the patients' levels of hostility were assessed, and 57% were rated as hostile, according to the report published Sept. 15 in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing.
"Hostility is a personality trait that includes being sarcastic, cynical, resentful, impatient or irritable," said study author Dr. Tracey Vitori, from the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville.
"It's not just a one-off occurrence, but characterizes how a person interacts with people. We know that taking control of lifestyle habits improves the outlook for heart attack patients and our study suggests that improving hostile behaviors could also be a positive move," Vitori said in a journal news release.
During the 24 months of follow-up, the researchers found that hostility was an independent predictor of dying from a second heart attack after adjusting for other factors such as sex, age, education, marital status, diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking.
"Hostility has been linked with cardiovascular disease since the 1950s, but we still don't fully understand why. Our study shows that hostility is a common trait in heart attack survivors and is associated with poor outcomes. More research is needed on how this characteristic affects the body," Vitori said.
Anxiety and depression are mental health conditions typically evaluated in heart disease patients, but adding an assessment of hostility may identify patients at risk for premature death, the study authors noted.
The researchers also suggested that educating heart patients on the potential dangers of hostility could motivate them to make behavioral changes.
"There is much cardiac patients can do to take control of their own health. From a physical side -- smoking cessation, increase physical activity and eat a balanced diet. Our study also indicates that managing hostile behaviors could be important," Vitori said.
-- Robert Preidt
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