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Heart attack patients with hostile attitudes have poorer health outcomes, study finds

Researchers are emphasizing how mindset can affect physical health

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While many consumers think of changing their diet or exercise habits in an effort to promote better heart health, a new study is exploring how a person’s attitude plays a bigger role in health outcomes than they might realize. 

According to researchers from the European Society of Cardiology, having a hostile attitude could make recovering from a heart attack more complicated. Their study revealed that a good attitude is key for heart attack patients because being more irritable could increase the risk of death in the event of a second heart attack. 

“Hostility is a personality trait that includes being sarcastic, cynical, resentful, impatient, or irritable,” said researcher Dr. Tracey Vitori. “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.” 

Maintaining a good attitude

To understand how hostility could affect future health outcomes, the researchers assessed over 2,300 heart attack patients’ attitudes and behaviors over the course of two years. Ultimately, they found that having a more hostile attitude was associated with poorer health outcomes. 

The researchers explained that hostility wasn’t necessarily an indicator of future health concerns, as nearly 60 percent of the participants were categorized as having hostile attitudes. However, over the long-term, being angry and aggressive appeared to increase the likelihood that patients wouldn’t survive a subsequent heart attack. 

“There is much cardiac patients can do to take control of their own health,” said Dr. Vitori. “From a physical side -- smoking cessation, increase physical activity, and eat a balanced diet. Our study also indicates that managing hostile behaviours could be important.” 

Paying attention to mental health

Several recent studies have explored the ways mental health can have an effect on heart health -- especially for young people. Because of this, the researchers hope that these findings inspire further research that can help medical professionals better understand why hostility is such an important component in heart attack recovery. 

“Hostility has been linked with cardiovascular disease since the 1950s, but we still don’t fully understand why,” Dr. Vitori said. “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.” 

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