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Type "A" Personality Traits Linked to Increase in Hypertension Risk

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CHICAGO, Oct 21 (AFP) - People who exhibit some of the classic "type A" personality traits early in life are almost twice as likely to develop high blood pressure by their 30s and 40s as their less stressed-out peers, according to a study released Tuesday.

In the first major finding of its kind, researchers in Chicago reported a direct connection between two "type A" personality traits and the mid-life onset of a condition that is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The Northwestern University researchers found that people in their late teens and 20s who demonstrated a high degree of impatience and hostility were 84 percent more likely to become hypertensive in their 30s and 40s than their peers in whom those character traits were not so exaggerated.

The greater their sense of hostility, and/or impatience or sense of time pressure, the greater the risk, according to the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

"Young adulthood and early middle age is a critical period for the development of hypertension and other risk factors for heart disease," noted lead author Lijing Yan.

Cardiovascular disease -- stroke, heart disease, heart attack -- is the number one killer of people in industrialised nations.

Conversely, the researchers found no evidence to suggest that the other "type A" behaviour, competitiveness, predisposed these people to high blood pressure.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, was defined as 140 over 90 for the purposes of the JAMA study which was based on an analysis of a data culled from the CARDIA study, that tracked 3,300 Americans for 15 years.

The participants in that study were enrolled in 1985 and 1986 and followed through 2000/2001. The results showed that 15 percent of the volunteers had developed hypertension by age 33 to 45.

The Northwestern researchers did not spell out the nature of the link between the behavioural traits and the condition.

But in an editorial accompanying the study, Duke University professor Redford Williams suggested that these Type A personalities might contribute to the development of high blood pressure in various ways.

"People who have high levels of hostility are going around getting angry at things that don't bother the ordinary person so much," said Williams, who is a professor of medicine at Duke University Medical School in North Carolina. These fits of anger activate the adrenal system, pushing up a person's blood pressure, he said. "Over time, gradually the set point rises with these frequent episodes of elevated blood pressure." 

Another explanation may be that "type A" personalities also tend to indulge in unhealthy habits such as smoking, and increasing their alcohol and food intake to offset their stress, Williams said. Either way, he said, previous research had shown that these people would probably learn to modify their behaviour through cognitive therapy, or behavioural techniques, such as coping skills, meditation.



COPYRIGHT 2003 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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