Type A: Hard On the Heart

Are type A personality types unhealthy? The answer isn’t as obvious as it might seem. Impatience and hostility--common traits of the “type A” behavior pattern--do increase the risk for high blood pressure. However, other familiar type A traits--competitiveness, depression and anxiety--don't seem to put the heart at risk, according to recent research sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Beginning in 1985, researcher Lijing Yan, a professor at Northwestern University in Chicago, began investigating the links between this personality type and heart disease. More than 3,000 participants between the ages of 18 and 30 were measured for common traits of the “A” personality: impatience, competitiveness, hostility, depression and anxiety. Blood pressure and other physical indices were measured periodically until 2001.

The participants deemed the most impatient and those rated most hostile were both 84 percent more likely to have developed high blood pressure at the end of the 15-year study. But other type A personality traits were not directly linked to circulatory troubles.

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High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a risk factor for heart disease, liver disease and stroke. About one in four adults have high blood pressure. Its frequency increases with age: only 3 percent of 18-24 year olds are hypertensive, while 70 percent of adults 75 and older have the condition.

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