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Beyond Cholesterol: How Hostility Damages Your Heart

Beyond Cholesterol: How Hostility Damages Your Heart


Beyond Cholesterol: How Hostility Damages Your Heart

by Elaine R. Ferguson, MD

While heart disease, the number one cause of mortality and disease in the industrialized parts of the world, has been evaluated for dozens of years, research physicians are now acknowledging that beyond the well accepted risk factors--smoking, obesity, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, a sedentary life style, and diabetes--subtler emotional factors such as hostility, isolation, and depression, play a role in the development of coronary artery disease.

Redford Williams of Duke University Medical Center found, for example, that a cynical mistrust of others, the overt expression of this cynicism, and hostility expressed in aggressive behavior accounted for higher mortality related to heart disease. "Hostility flares like a beacon, a risk factor that needs to be tempered," Williams wrote in his book, "Anger Kills."

An essential component of health is our ability to acknowledge that unyielding anger is a toxic trait with damaging effects. It is also significant to recognize that it can be changed with an intention to change and helpful behavioral approaches. A study conducted in the US, Canada and Israel, "The Short-Term Effects of Hostility-Reduction Intervention on Male Coronary Heart Disease Patients," was published in Health Psychology (July 1999 evaluated an approach focusing on minimizing reducing hostility in patients with heart disease. The study determined that those who reduced their level of hostility, experienced dramatically lower blood pressures.

Hostility has numerous effects on our health. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, determined that, in individuals age 50 and younger, unhappiness is the most significant predictor of heart disease and heart attacks. In his book, Williams connects hostility to unhappiness. He cites a study, "Cynical Hostility at Home and Work: Psychosocial Vulnerability Across Domains," conducted by Timothy Smith, a University of Utah researcher and his colleagues and published in the Journal of Research in Personality (December 1988), which found that college students, who score high on a hostility questionnaire, a part of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a standard psychological test, reported more hassles and negative life events, along with less social support. Williams also points out that hostile people had more marital problems and conflicts in their families.

Hostility can also lead to another contributor to heart disease isolation. Numerous research studies have clearly demonstrated that. Thus, hostility led to another contributor to heart disease: isolation.

About the Author:
Learn more about heart disease. Stop by Elaine R. Ferguson, MD's site where you can find out all about personality and what it can do for you.

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