Type A Types: The Real Heartbreakers

Aggressive people at risk of high blood pressure

THURSDAY, Nov. 21, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- If you're the type who pounds a fist on the steering wheel every time you get stuck in traffic, you may be traveling down the fast lane to high blood pressure and heart disease.

A new study suggests that people who are impatient and feel constantly pressed for time are more likely to develop high blood pressure as they age.

The study, which was just presented at the American Heart Association's scientific sessions meeting in Chicago, dubs this feeling "time urgency/impatience" -- or TUI.

"The higher the sense of time urgency, the higher the risk of developing hypertension," says one of the study's authors, LiJing Yan, a research assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.

One in four Americans has high blood pressure, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Risk factors include being older, overweight, black and having a family history of the disease.

Another risk factor may be having a "Type A" personality. The hallmark traits include TUI, competitiveness, hostility, tenseness and aggressiveness. Yan says the results of studies that have tried to link Type A types with high blood pressure and heart disease have been inconsistent, which is what led the researchers to study just one aspect of the Type A personality.

"Different components of Type A may have different effects," she says.

Yan and her colleagues gathered data from the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study. They included information from more than 3,000 men and women, black and white, who were between the ages of 18 and 30 when the study began. The study participants came from four different metropolitan areas -- Minneapolis, Birmingham, Ala., Oakland, Calif., and Chicago.

Blood pressure measurements were taken at the start of the study and in the second year. Anyone with hypertension at that time was excluded from the study. Blood pressure measurements were then taken again at year 15 for the remaining volunteers.

The volunteers also completed questionnaires at the start of the study and during the second year. They were asked to rate how well statements such as "eating too quickly," "usually feeling pressed for time," or "often feeling time pressures at the end of a work day," described their personality. Six percent of the volunteers felt all of those statements described them very well, placing them in the highest level of TUI.

Overall, 14.3 percent of the group developed high blood pressure by the 15th year, Yan says. In the highest TUI group, however, 17 percent had developed high blood pressure. In the lowest TUI group, only 10 percent had developed high blood pressure. And when the researchers adjusted the data to control for such factors as age, race, sex, body mass index and alcohol intake, they found people with the highest TUI scores were more than twice as likely to develop high blood pressure than those with the lowest scores.

At the end of the study, black men had the highest rate of high blood pressure, at 22 percent, compared to 12 percent for white men. Black women also had higher rates -- 21 percent -- compared to only 5 percent for white women. In all of the groups, high blood pressure rates were significantly greater in the highest TUI groups.

People with high levels of TUI also had high rates of other poor health behaviors such as smoking, drinking, high hostility and a lack of social support.

"People need to realize that the risk factors for heart disease often travel together," says Dr. Dan Fisher, a cardiologist at New York University Medical Center in New York City. "People running around like crazy are more likely to be living less than an ideal lifestyle. They may be smoking or not eating right or not getting enough exercise."

"Studies like this are important because they raise awareness of the problem and hopefully we can find treating this early helps lower hypertension," Fisher adds. "An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Dealing with stress or TUI early in life may help reduce the risk of coronary disease later in life."

What To Do

To learn more about blood pressure and how to prevent high blood pressure, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute or the University of Michigan Health System.

Here are some tips from the American Medical Association on controlling stress.

SOURCES: LiJing Yan, Ph.D., research assistant professor, preventive medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago; Dan Fisher, M.D., cardiologist, New York University Medical Center, New York City; Nov. 20, 2002, presentation, American Heart Association's scientific sessions meeting, Chicago
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