Hostility & Heart Inflammation - Thermography Insights

According to a new Baylor University-led study, it appears that cynical hostility increases one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This matters because in today’s turbulent and divisive political climate, hostility is not only commonplace, it is sadly enough well-accepted as commonplace in our everyday life. We have become numb by the propaganda constantly sold to us by several media moguls causing an ever-present sublime message of hostility to “nurture” our environment. As hostility feeds into driving fear and isolation, our society has found it increasingly more difficult to be supportive of one another and to feel comfortable with direct human-to-human live connections, fearful of sparking conflict. 

Such prolonged degrees of cynical hostility pose a serious health threat both short and long term for individuals and society as a whole. Because feeling high levels of anger, frustration, and other negative emotions which are not easily countered and subsided by joy, gratitude, and compassion can quickly lead to dramatic spikes in inflammation and terror throughout the body. More specifically, scientific research has clearly demonstrated that such high levels of stress causes the release of powerful cytokines from the immune system which keep a constant state of inflammatory processes in motion and, in turn, eat away at tissues and organs from functioning along with breaking down bone integrity. To learn more, go to Change Your Diet, Change Your Mood: Weighing the Evidence

The latest research findings came from a psychological stress test undertaken by around 200 participants in the Laboratory for Study of Stress, Immunity, and Disease at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. Participants were asked to conduct a 20-minute baseline psychological stress test and follow-up 15-minute test which involved determining their personality and temperament. The participants’ heart rate and blood pressure were monitored closely during reasonably stressful situations, such as when asked to take 5 minutes to prepare and then deliver a speech defending themselves from traffic violations or shoplifting accusations. 

While not perfect simulators of realworld stress, these methods of social and self-evaluation are designed to increase the experience of stress. The reason these situations are employed so often is because they have been validated in prior research, so the results are deemed more credible. Regardless, this study looked at three types of hostility that arise from most stressful situations: 

  1. Cognitive/mental hostility which includes feeling cynical 
  2. Emotional hostility which can easily trigger chronic anger
  3. Behavioral hostility which involves verbal and physical aggression.


Despite a lack of significant associations between emotional and behavioral hostility and stress, cognitive hostility was found to dramatically impact the cardiovascular system. This does not suggest that emotional and behavioral hostility are not bad for you; it’s just that they may affect your health or well-being in other less obvious ways. Ultimately, a person’s level of hostility comes down to how he/she deals with repeated exposure to stress and if they tend to keep their “alarm” system frequently ON or can effectively stop or transform negative emotions from spiraling out-of-control.  

Stress is basically when we set expectations we cannot realistically reach for ourselves and/or from others and instead, find ourselves struggling to work against time and our body’s natural constitution. Either way, when our body, mind, and spirit sense these high levels of distress, it triggers a spike in stress hormone production so that we can respond quickly and effectively to urgent matter at hand. The problem is when excess long-term firing of these same stress hormones occurs, it tends to cause major dysfunction of essential organ systems and their eventual collapse.

Stress manifests in different ways for different people. When you’re exposed to the same stress trigger multiple times, the novelty of that stressful situation eventually wears off with time, and you don’t have as big of a negative response as you did the first time. This is considered to be a healthy response to stress.

With cynical hostility, on the other hand, a person continues to react to stressful circumstances with a similar intensity level each time, no matter how much exposure they’ve had to similarly stressful situations. This is considered to be a poor response to stress which eventually leads to a fundamental strain on the cardiovascular system along with every other organ system in the body. 

Studies by Neuvonen et al. published in 2014 found that those with higher levels of cynical distrust were more likely to develop dementia later in life. This clearly indicates that a person’s view on life and intrinsic personality  play an enormous role in their overall health quality.

Although we often want to understand the harm caused by cynicism and negative thinking, there are some researchers who try to find a positive outcome for less positive mindsets. Some people may just be “hard wired” for negative thinking. But this isn’t always a bad thing! For example, Julie Norem discusses in great deal in her book The Positive Power of Negative Thinking that defensive pessimism can create helpful coping and strategize skills for developing actionable strategies in the face of the worst possible outcome. The problem is sustained defensive pessimism and other negative emotions (i.e. everything from suspicious thoughts to hostile disposition) can slowly kill a person.

And so, it would behoove us to equip ourselves with useful strategies to mitigate the stress we bring upon ourselves. To learn more about my favorite stress reduction tips, go to The Keys to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction


Thermography for Inflammation

As recorded by Roman encyclopedist Celsus in the 1st century A.D., the four cardinal signs of Inflammation are rubor, calor, dolor, and tumor, redness, heat, pain, and swelling, respectively. Thermography picks up heat which represents cell damage, organ dysfunction, and inflammation. Because a frequent state of negative emotions is correlated with high levels of stress, inflammation and cell death, thermography can be an extremely useful non-invasive diagnostic tool for detecting the havoc created. For example, an inflamed brain leads to an inflamed heart and eventual cardiovascular disease and dementia. Thermography can easily pick up on these abnormalities ten years earlier than any other diagnostic test. 

By the utilization of thermography and how it can help undercover underlying health concerns a person may not yet be clinically aware of, SF Advanced Health was able to detect a severe case of periodontal disease in a  patient not experiencing any clinical symptoms at the time of the scan. Because thermography can clearly demonstrate soft tissue inflammation of gums and mucous membranes throughout the gastrointestinal tract, it was able to clearly demonstrate severe dental disease and its direct correlation to the patient’s moderate high risk of a future stroke and heart attack. 

 While there is no “clear” picture of what stress looks like on an upper or full body thermography scan, it can clearly demonstrate significant vascular inflammation that is both caused and worsened by stress. Even in the absence of symptoms, it is critical to rule out hidden sources of inflammation since it may save a person from experiencing major complications of an imminent stroke or heart attack.


Dr. Bhandari and the Advanced Health Team Are Here to Support Your Health

Our expert team of integrative holistic practitioners work with patients suffering from chronic health concerns.  We help our patients reverse disease by better understanding how the body optimally functions and providing personalized treatment plans. To learn more and book an appointment, contact Advanced Health or call 1-415-506-9393.


Neuvonen, E., Rusanen, M., Solomon, A., Ngandu, T., Laatikainen, T., Soininen, H., ... & Tolppanen, A. M. (2014). Late-life cynical distrust, risk of incident dementia, and mortality in a population-based cohort. Neurology, 82(24), 2205-2212.

Tyra, A. T., Brindle, R. C., Hughes, B. M., & Ginty, A. T. (2020). Cynical hostility relates to a lack of habituation of the cardiovascular response to repeated acute stress. Psychophysiology, 57(12), e13681.

Payal Bhandari M.D. Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is one of U.S.'s top leading integrative functional medical physicians and the founder of San Francisco' top ranked medical center, SF Advanced Health. Her well-experienced holistic healthcare team collaborates together to deliver whole-person personalized care and combines the best in Western and Eastern medicine. By being an expert of cell function, Dr. Bhandari defines the root cause of illness and is able to subside any disease within weeks to months. She specializes in cancer prevention and reversal, digestive & autoimmune disorders. Dr. Bhandari received her Bachelor of Arts degree in biology in 1997 and Doctor of Medicine degree in 2001 from West Virginia University. She the completed her Family Medicine residency in 2004 from the University of Massachusetts and joined a family medicine practice in 2005 which was eventually nationally recognized as San Francisco’s 1st patient-centered medical home. To learn more, go to

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