How being sarcastic could kill you: Scientists reveal heart attack survivors with ‘hostile traits’ are more likely to die from a repeat event
- University of Tennessee researchers tracked 2,300 heart attack survivors
- Those with hostile traits were more likely to die of a second attack, study found
- Emotional state of being consistently negative may put a strain on their health
- And those who are hostile to others are less likely to look after their wellbeing
Sarcastic and irritable people may be putting their heart in danger, research suggests.
A study of 2,300 heart attack survivors in the US found those who displayed hostile character traits – including sarcasm, cynicism, resentment, impatience or irritability – were at much greater risk of dying of a second attack within the next two years.
Researchers believe this may be because the emotional state of being consistently negative puts a strain on their health.
Those who are hostile to others are also less likely to look after their own wellbeing – and more likely to smoke, drink and have poor lifestyle and diet.
A study of 2,300 heart attack survivors in the US found those who displayed hostile character traits – including sarcasm, cynicism, resentment, impatience or irritability – were at much greater risk of dying of a second attack within the next two years
The researchers, from the University of Tennessee in the US, tracked 2,321 heart attack survivors.
Hostility was measured at the beginning of the study using a personality test and the patients were then followed for 24 months.
WHAT IS A HEART ATTACK?
Figures suggest there are 200,000 hospital visits because of heart attacks in the UK each year, while there are around 800,000 annually in the US.
A heart attack, known medically as a myocardial infarction, occurs when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked.
Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, and feeling weak and anxious.
Heart attacks are commonly caused by coronary heart disease, which can be brought on by smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Treatment is usually medication to dissolve blots clots or surgery to remove the blockage.
Reduce your risk by not smoking, exercising regularly and drinking in moderation.
Heart attacks are different to a cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body, usually due to a problem with electrical signals in the organ.
Source: NHS Choices
At the end of the two years the participants’ survival rates were compared to their personality scores, and hostility could be accurately used to predict someone’s chance of dying of a repeat heart attack.
The researchers, writing in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, said someone’s character could impact the heart;through both behavioural and psychological mechanisms’.
‘Hostile individuals have increased clotting times, higher adrenaline levels, above normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and increased cardiac reactivity,’ they said.
‘These known inflammatory factors may initiate cardiac events and increase poor clinical outcomes.’ Previous research has found that being optimistic has a direct impact on cardiovascular health – reducing stress hormones, pulse rate and blood pressure.
And people with a positive outlook eat better, do more exercise and are less likely to drink.
Those with a sunny disposition are also less likely to smoke – and if they already smoke they are better at quitting.
Scientists also believe someone’s general mood alters the levels of harmful and beneficial hormones in their body.
Being optimistic, for example, reduces stress and anxiety hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can place a burden on the heart and raise blood pressure.
Study author Tracey Vitori of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, said: ‘Hostility is a personality trait that includes being sarcastic, cynical, resentful, impatient or irritable.
‘It’s not just a one-off occurrence but characterises 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 behaviours could also be a positive move.’