Cynical? Irritable? Sarcastic? If these personality traits are your preferred emotions, there are a few ways you may need to learn to reduce hostility for the sake of your heart health.
A study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing found that a generally hostile outlook on life can make a person who has had one heart attack more prone to another.
The researchers studied 2,300 heart attack survivors, 68% of whom were men an average of 67 years, and tracked them for a period of two years.
Assess your hostility
The patients in the study were screened to determine how hostile their personality type was. Hostile personalities are identified by traits such as cynicism, irritability, sarcasm, and anger. More than half of the respondents (57%) had this type of personality. "Usually hostility is part of a Type A personality," said Donna Marino, PsyD, clinical psychologist and executive coach in Chicago, in an interview with Medical Daily.
Having an opposing personality doesn't mean occasionally being irritated about a problem or making a sarcastic comment every now and then. People with this personality type have a generally negative outlook on life. You can have bad interactions with others. You can be under a lot of stress. Then they get irritated.
Improving these behaviors could be key to better heart health outcomes, stressed study author Tracey K. Vitori, PhD, RN.
How hostility affects your heart
The researchers found that hostility in itself is an independent risk factor for dying a second heart attack, even after considering other risk factors such as age, gender, smoking, education, marital status, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
It has long been known that depression, anxiety, and stress are conditions that can affect cardiovascular disease. However, these results suggest that hostility also plays a role in cardiovascular outcomes.
Science isn't sure how hostility affects the heart, but the study notes that this is a common trait in people who have had a heart attack. This research could lead to the addition of a personality assessment of hostility for heart patients as well as better education. Mental health behavior changes can be important.
Heal your heart
Learning to reduce your hostile personality traits can be difficult. But when it comes to your heart health, there is no better reason to give it a try. Calming techniques and stressbusters, like counting to 10 before reacting, meditating for a few minutes with an app that guides you, or asking if something will be important in three weeks, three months, or three years can work, said Dr. Tina B. Tessina, a Long Beach, California psychotherapist and author of It Ends with You: Growing Up and Out of Dysfunction.
Yoga would be great too. "Any kind of relaxation training helps," said Dr. Marino.
You can begin to recognize the physical symptoms of hostility: faster heartbeat, muscle tension, red face. Then learn to calm yourself down with calming practices.
At a deeper level, you can work with a therapist to find out where anger and hostility come from. "It often has a history or even goes back to childhood," said Dr. Tessina. "An angry demeanor makes other people react negatively to you, and it becomes a vicious circle."
By healing your hostility, you can heal more than just your heart.
Jennifer Nelson is a Florida-based health writer who also writes on health and wellness for AARP, PBS 'Next Avenue, Shondaland, and others.