Bad Attitude Raises Blood Pressure Risk

Impatient, Hostile Attitudes Increase Future Risk of High Blood Pressure

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on October 21, 2003
From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 21, 2003 -- Not only is patience a virtue, it's also good for your heart. A new study shows that young adults with impatient or hostile attitudes have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure when they get older.

Researchers say the findings show that individual aspects of the infamous "type A personality" attitude may be responsible for raising the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease among young and middle-age adults.

Previous studies on the link between the type A personality and heart disease have produced conflicting results. But researchers say that might be because of the fact that the type A personality has many dimensions.

Researchers say this is the first study to examine the role of the following three main components of the type A personality type in influencing the long-term risk of high blood pressure:

  • Time urgency/impatience
  • Achievement striving/competitiveness
  • Hostility

More than 43 million American adults suffer from high blood pressure, defined as having a systolic (the top number) equal or greater than 140 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) equal or greater than 90 mm Hg. High blood pressure is a well-known risk factor for heart disease.

Hostility, Impatience Raise Blood Pressure Risk

The study, published in the Oct. 22-29 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at how each of these type A personality factors as well as depression and anxiety were linked to the long-term risk of high blood pressure in a group of more than 3,000 adults aged 18 to 30 years. Researchers followed the participants for 15 years.

They found that the higher the person scored on tests of impatience and hostility during young adulthood, the more likely they were to develop high blood pressure later in life -- regardless of their other risk factors for high blood pressure, such as age, sex, race, education, body mass index (BMI, a measure of weight in relation to height), physical activity level, or blood pressure at the start of the study.

The study also showed a consistent link between achievement striving and competitiveness and high blood pressure risk among white men only.

No consistent patterns of risk were found for depression or anxiety and high blood pressure risk.

Researcher Lijing L. Yan, PhD, MPH, and colleagues of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., say the results are consistent with the most recent studies that have shown hostility increases high blood pressure risks.

In an editorial that accompanies the study, Redford B. Williams, MD, of Duke University Medical Center, and colleagues say that solid scientific evidence on the effects of stress and other psychosocial factors on health have been emerging for the last 30 years.

Even though much more research is needed to understand how factors like attitude affect heart risks, they say behavioral and drug treatment approaches that target these psychosocial risk factors "already have shown considerable promise for reducing disease and improving health and well-being."

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SOURCE: Yan, L. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 22-29, 2003; vol 290: pp 2138-2148.

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