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Could Impatience Be Raising Your Blood Pressure?

Study Finds Hostility, Impatience Increase Hypertension Risk

Impatience and hostility -- two hallmarks of the "type A" behavior pattern -- increase young adults' long-term risk of developing high blood pressure, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers also found that as impatience and hostility increased, so did the risk of high blood pressure. However, other psychological and social factors, such as competitiveness, depression, and anxiety did not increase hypertension risk.

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Malignant Hypertension

Malignant hypertension is extremely high blood pressure that develops rapidly and causes some type of organ damage. "Normal" blood pressure is below 140/90. A person with malignant hypertension has a blood pressure that's typically above 180/120. Malignant hypertension should be treated as a medical emergency.

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The research was conducted by scientists at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, the University of Pittsburgh in PA, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

This was the first prospective study to examine, as a group, the effects of key type A behaviors, depression, and anxiety on the long-term risk for high blood pressure. Earlier studies had mostly looked at individual psychological and social behaviors and found conflicting results.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease, and congestive heart failure, and is the chief risk factor for stroke. Normal blood pressure is a systolic (top number) of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and a diastolic (bottom number) of less than 80 mm Hg; high blood pressure is a systolic of 140 mm Hg or higher, or a diastolic of 90 mm Hg or higher. Numbers in between are referred to as "pre-hypertension" and are associated with an intermediate risk of complications related to high blood pressure.

About 50 million Americans -- one in four adults -- have high blood pressure and prevalence increases sharply with age: The condition affects about 3% of those ages 18-24 and about 70% of those 75 and older.

"Although high blood pressure is less common among young adults, young adulthood and early middle age is a critical period for the development of hypertension and other risk factors for heart disease," said lead author Dr. Lijing L. Yan, Research Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University. "Previous research on young adults is limited, and our study helps to fill that gap."

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