NEW ORLEANS — Hostility is linked to poor heart health, and a new study shows what can happen in the bodies of women that may explain this link.
Scientists have known that women, optimism is associated with a reduced risk for heart disease, and that “cynical hostility” or a general distrust of other people — is linked to a higher risk for heart disease, according to a previous study.
What is unclear, however, is which mechanism is optimism and hostility act due to the influence of women in the health of the heart. In other words, why these properties have such as the effects on heart disease risk?
In the new study, the researchers showed that the missing link could be something called heart rate variability, said Dr. Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, an epidemiologist and assistant professor in medicine at Brown University School of Medicine and the lead author of the study. Salmoirago-Blotcher is also a researcher at the Miriam Hospital Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine.
The study revealed that women with higher levels of hostility had a lower heart rate variability, on average, compared with women with the lowest levels of hostility.
The heart rate variability is a measure for the amount of time interval between heartbeats varies from moment to moment, Salmoirago-Blotcher told Live Science. A person of the heart rate is not stable, on the contrary, there can be small variations in the interval between beats, Salmoirago-Blotcher said.
In general, a higher heart rate variability is a good thing, Salmoirago-Blotcher said. It shows that the part of the nervous system, accelerates the heart rate and is the part that slows down working in balance, ” she said. For example, research has shown that women with depression have lower heart rate variability, Salmoirago-Blotcher said. Salmoirago-Blotcher presented her findings here Monday (Nov. 14) at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions of the annual meeting.
The hostility and the health of the heart
In the new study, the researchers looked at data on more than 2,600 women who were enrolled in a study called the Myocardial Ischemia and Migraine Study (MIMS). MIMS is part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The women in the study were on average 63 years old.
As a part of the MIMS study, women had their heart electrical activity measured using an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) test. In the new study, the researchers used this data to calculate their heart rate variability. In addition, the researchers had the data from the WHI about how optimistic and hostile were the women, on the basis of their answers to the two questionairres.
Hostility can increase the activity of the part of the nervous system that the speed of a person’s fight or flight response, Salmoirago-Blotcher said.
Salmoirago-Blotcher noted that the researchers found that the women in the study who were more hostile were also more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity in comparison with those who are less hostile.
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The researchers did not find a link between optimism and heart rate variability, but in earlier studies, optimism was found to be associated with better heart health, Salmoirago-Blotcher said. It may be that other factors than heart rate variability account for the link between optimism and heart health, including behavioral factors, ” she said.
For example, in the study, the women who were more optimistic were less likely to be risk factors for heart disease and more physical activity than those who are less optimistic, Salmoirago-Blotcher said. Physical exercise is shown that it is associated with greater heart rate variability, she added.
The study has a number of limitations, Salmoirago-Blotcher noted. First, the study was observational, meaning the researchers can’t prove that there is a cause-and-effect. Second, the researchers did not adjust the findings for depression and physical activity, ” she said. In other words, it is unclear how many of these factors played a role in the results, ” she said. More research is needed to confirm the findings.
The research is not published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Originally published on Live Science.