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Crankiness may be worse than other factors in heart disease

Deep-seated pessimism could be even more dangerous for men than once thought.

November 18, 2002|Linda Marsa | Times Staff Writer

Hostility may make men more prone to heart disease than such well-established risk factors as smoking cigarettes, excessive alcohol intake and being overweight, new research shows.

Defined as a deep-seated pessimism and mistrust of others, hostility had been linked previously to heart disease.

However, scientists thought that it was simply connected to a lower socioeconomic status (a risk factor in itself) and that it triggered unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and greater consumption of alcohol and food.

But in a study of 774 healthy white men, in which 45 developed heart disease within a three-year period, hostility turned out to be a "more significant predictor of heart disease" than anything other than cholesterol levels, said Raymond Niaura, a study coauthor and psychiatry professor at Brown University Medical School in Providence, R.I.

Scientists don't understand the physiological reasons why hostility increases risk, Niaura said, but these results suggest that hostile people should seek counseling to manage their negative feelings.

The study was conducted by researchers from Brown University Medical School, Boston University School of Public Health, the University of Memphis and Harvard Medical School.

It was published in the November issue of Health Psychology.

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