The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay explains on Tuesday what the latest study shows about personality traits and stroke risk.
Previous studies have shown a link between personality traits and an increased risk of heart disease. The recent study found that men who express their anger are ten percent more likely than men who are not hostile to develop an abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation, which raises the risk of stroke. The study also found that men with higher levels of hostility towards others had an even greater 30 percent risk of developing the abnormal heart rhythm.
The researchers found no increased risk in men who rated high in aggressive "type A" behavior alone.
Senay explains that "type A" behavior in the study did not include anger and hostility, but it focused on time urgency issues such as being impatient, always in a hurry; competitive or a hard-driving, strong need to excel; and thinking about work all the time.
On the other hand, hostility was measured as a contemptuous attitude toward other people, expecting the worst from others and feeling a need to defend against it. A hostile person would agree with statements such as:
"I have often met people who were supposed to be experts who were no better than me."
"I frequently have worked under people who arrange things so they get all the credit."
"Some of my family members have habits that bother me and annoy me very much."
An angry person would describe himself as fiery or quick-tempered, hot-headed, annoyed when slighted, furious when criticized, and wanting to hit someone when frustrated.
The study also found that men had a 20 percent increased chance of developing atrial fibrillation if they were rated high in symptoms of anger, or sensations such as shaking, headaches and muscle tension, which accompany anger.
The study did not find that women were at similar risks. Researchers did not find a link between anger, hostility or "type A" behavior and a woman's risk of heart disease or atrial fibrillation. But researchers say that may be because women develop heart disease later than men and the group of women in the study was fairly young. Senay says more study is needed before medical experts can say definitely that personality traits are not related to heart disease in women.
The study provides some solid evidence that anger and hostility are independent risk factors or heart disease. The researchers say that rather than concentrating on "type A" behavior as a risk factor, doctors should probably start thinking about anger and hostility in men. If more research confirms these results, doctors would have another way to identify people at risk for heart disease.