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Heart Disease Health Center

Negative Personality May Hurt Heart

Study Ties Combination of 4 Negative Traits to Men's Heart Disease Risk
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 17, 2006 -- Men with a strong mix of anger, depression, hostility, and anxiety may be more likely to develop coronary heart disease.

That's according to researchers including Edward Suarez, PhD, a Duke University associate professor of psychiatry.

Heart disease is a leading cause of death for U.S. men and women. It affects the heart and the coronary arteries which supply heart muscle with blood.

Coronary heart disease makes heart attacks more likely.

The study, published online in Psychosomatic Medicine, doesn't warn against normal anger, anxiety, and other "negative" emotions most people experience from time to time.

Also, it's important to remember that many factors -- including smoking, diabetes, and excess weight -- affect heart disease.

Goal: Prevention

Suarez and colleagues are designing a comprehensive intervention program to help patients handle negative feelings and cut heart risks, states a Duke news release.

"We want to help people at earlier points in their life by teaching them ways to cope with problems and how to make wiser choices that promote health," Suarez says in the news release.

"By helping them before they ever show clinical signs of heart disease, we may be able to help them avoid the disease altogether," he adds.

Personality and Heart Disease Study

Depression, anger, hostility, and anxiety have each been separately linked to worse odds of getting coronary heart disease.

But those traits may tend to go together, note Suarez and colleagues.

In their study, they looked at 2,105 men who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War.

In 1985, the veterans were 47 years old, on average, and had no history of heart disease.

The men got heart checkups and completed personality surveys to gauge their anger, hostility, depression, and anxiety.

They were given scores for each of those personality traits, as well as a combination score covering all four traits.

The men were then invited to get checkups in 1987, 1992, 1997, and 2002. On average, they stuck with the study 15 years.

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