Can Personality Affect Your Heart?
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
- Researchers ruled out effects from other cardiovascular risk factors in order to focus on the personality of the participants.
- Participants who scored low on “agreeableness” during the initial personality test tended to have thicker carotid artery walls at the beginning, middle, and end of the study.
- People who scored in the lowest 10% of agreeableness were 40% more likely to show an increase in artery wall thickness over three years.
- The effects of arterial wall thickening are similar to the effects of metabolic syndrome.
- Women who scored high in agreeableness (and low in antagonistic qualities) tended to have thinner artery walls than their male counterparts.
- If you find yourself to be often aggressive, antagonistic, manipulative, or disagreeable, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your life and avoid situations that place you in these scenarios. Stress and lifestyle can often contribute to less agreeable behavior, which in turn can affect not only your relationships with others but also your own health.
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Date Last Modified: December 17, 2010.
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