Sarcastic and irritable people may be putting their heart in danger, research suggests because these traits are likely to kill them.
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.
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.
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.’