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Stressed-Out Types Put Heart at Risk

Anxious 'Type D' Personality Types More Likely to Have Heart Problems

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC

Sept. 14, 2010 -- People who constantly feel anxious or distressed have a higher risk of heart problems than people with a more easygoing personality.

A new study shows that heart disease patients with a Type D personality are more than three times as likely to suffer heart attack, heart failure, or other heart-related problems than heart patients with other personality types.

Most people are familiar with Type A personalities, whose traits include competitiveness, a focus on achievement, a sense of urgency, and hostility. Type D patients are different. “Type D patients tend to experience increased levels of anxiety, irritation, and depressed mood across situations and time, while not sharing these emotions with others because of fear of disapproval,” researcher Viola Spek, PhD, of Tiburg University in the Netherlands, says in a news release.

Researchers found that the Type D personality type was an even more accurate predictor of future heart problems and heart-related deaths than traditional medical risk factors.

The study, published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, analyzed the results of 49 studies involving 6,121 people with heart disease.

The results showed that Type D personalities with heart disease had a three-fold higher risk of having heart events, including angioplasty or bypass procedures, heart failure, heart transplantation, heart attack, or death, compared to other personality types.

In addition, people with a Type D personality were three times more likely to develop psychological problems such as clinical depression, anxiety, or poor mental health.

Researchers say the findings suggest that screening heart disease patients for personality traits could give doctors a chance to intervene early with psychological or behavioral counseling and perhaps improve treatment results.

Although the reasons for higher risk among Type D patients are not clear, the researchers note that Type D personalities appear to respond differently to stress. This may increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood and may be related to higher levels of inflammation. Type D personalities may also be less likely to get regular checkups or communicate well with their doctors.

SOURCES: Denollet, J. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, Sept. 14, 2010; online advance edition.News release, American Heart Association.

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