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Study Confirms 'Type A' Personalities at Risk for High Blood Pressure - 2003-10-22

A study suggests that people who work in high pressure jobs should learn to relax. Findings published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association link impatience and hostility in young adults to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart attack later in life.

Everyone knows someone who gets extremely angry and impatient in a stressful situation, such as being caught in a traffic jam or being in a demanding job on a tight deadline. These people have what has come to be known as Type A personalities.

Matt Sincinski admits he is a person whose anger affects him physically. "I get a funny headache or a funny pain in my head or this rushing sound in my ears of a freight train, and I know my blood pressure is elevated," he said.

It's long been suspected that stress contributes to heart disease by elevating blood pressure levels. The link is suggested in the new study.

Investigators followed more than 3,000 black and white young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 in four suburban areas in the United States. Investigators followed the participants for five years beginning in the mid-1980s, and then looked to see how many had developed high blood pressure 15 years later.

They found participants with the greatest reactions to stress as young adults - as measured on a five point scale - had an 84 percent greater risk of developing high blood pressure later in life than those with the second highest score. Those in second place had blood pressure levels that were almost double those of the calmest individuals.

The findings held despite other factors, such as smoking, and race.

According to Lijing Yan of Northwestern University in Illinois, who co-authored the study, the findings offer a warning. "The effects of psycho-social factors may not be immediate. It may take sometime for their impacts to become apparent," she said.

Researchers say while the concept of Type A behavior has been around for years, the study helps understand why stress is bad for your health. They note it may have to do with biological factors caused by stress.