NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hostility Levels Predict Heart Attack Risk

November 20, 2002

Hostility levels may be a better predictor of heart disease risk than factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking or being overweight, suggests a new study.

The nearly 800 men in this study are part of an ongoing aging study that began in 1960. The men have thorough medical exams every three years and receive ongoing preventive healthcare advice.

Researchers found that heart attacks, chest pains or other signs of heart disease occurred much more frequently among men who measured as hostile on a personality test than in men who clearly had more traditional risk factors.

  • The researchers found that men scoring highest in hostility were most likely to develop heart trouble.
  • The only measurement that predicted heart disease risk more accurately than hostility was HDL "good" cholesterol levels.
  • While some health experts might debate hostility's "ranking" as a risk factor, few would argue against the evidence that suggests hostile people are more prone to heart disease.

People with high hostility levels have shown more pronounced blood pressure and heart rate responses when they are put into situations designed to make them angry. And hostile people are also more likely to practice habits that increase heart disease risk. Men in their mid-40s, who scored highest for hostility on this same personality test were more likely to be smokers, have high cholesterol levels and blood pressure, lower HDLs, and have a higher body mass index.

Sources: Sid Kirchheimer, "Hostility Predicts Heart Disease," WebMD Medical News, Nov. 18, 2002 and Raymond Niaura, et al.," Hostility, the Metabolic Syndrome, and Incident Coronary Heart Disease," Health Psychology, November 2002.


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