Can Personality Affect Your Heart?

in Clinical Commentary

By JoAnne Foody, MD
Posted December 17, 2010

My patients always ask me how they can work on their risk factors, and we usually discuss controllable factors such as weight, physical activity, cholesterol, and blood pressure. But what about our inherent characteristics? For instance, we all have different personalities. Some of us have high amounts of stress, some are carefree.

I recently read an article discussing how a team explored how arteries thicken among a population of both men and women in Italy. Thicker arteries often signify a risk factor for heart disease. In this study, researchers compared agreeable people to people whose personalities were more antagonistic and prone to conflict.

The study had very interesting results, especially from a gender-specific lens. People who were more antagonistic were more likely to have thicker arteries and therefore be at higher risk for heart disease. Though the study examined both men and women, they found that antagonistic women’s carotid arteries where indeed thicker than other women of more agreeable personalities, and just as thick as men of the same degree of disagreeableness.

What You Need to Know

Read the Article

Date Last Modified: December 17, 2010.

Send Feedback To: BWH Women’s Health at

75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115 617.732.5500
harvard medical school partners healthcare © BWH 2011