Washington: Angry and aggressive people
are at risk of suffering heart attack and stroke, researchers
A new study by the US National Institute on Ageing has
analysed 5,614 Italians in four villages and found that those
who scored high for antagonistic traits on a personality test
had greater thickening of the neck arteries compared to people
who were more agreeable.
Thickness of neck artery (carotid) walls is a risk
factor for heart attack and stroke, the researchers say.
Three years later, those who scored higher on
antagonism or low agreeableness -- especially those who were
manipulative and quick to express anger -- continued to have
thickening of their artery walls. These traits also predicted
greater progression of arterial thickening.
Those who scored in the bottom 10 percent of
agreeableness and were the most antagonistic had about a 40
percent increased risk for elevated intima-media thickness, a
measure of arterial wall thickness.
The effect on artery walls was similar to having
metabolic syndrome -- a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the study found.
"People who tend to be competitive and more willing to
fight for their own self interest have thicker arterial walls,
which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease," said lead
researcher Angelina Sutin.
She added: "Agreeable people tend to be trusting,
straightforward and show concern for others, while people who
score high on antagonism tend to be distrustful, skeptical and
at the extreme cynical, manipulative, self-centered, arrogant
and quick to express anger."
In fact, the study, conducted in the Sardinia region
of Italy, included participants aged from 14 to 94 years and
58 percent were female.
They answered a standard personality
questionnaire, which included six facets of agreeableness --
trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty and
Researchers used ultrasound to determine the
intima-media thickness of the carotid arteries in the neck at
five points. Participants also were screened for other risk
factors for cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure,
cholesterol levels, triglycerides and diabetes.
In general, men had more thickening of the artery
walls. But if women were antagonistic, their risk quickly
caught up with the men, Sutin said.
"Women who scored high on antagonism related traits
tended to close the gap, developing arterial thickness similar
to antagonistic men. Whereas women with agreeable traits had
much thinner arterial walls than men with agreeable traits,
antagonism had a much stronger association with arterial
thickness in women," she said.
Though thickening of the artery walls is a
sign of age, young people with antagonistic traits already had
thickening of the artery wall, she said. "People may learn to
control their anger and learn ways to express anger in more
socially acceptable ways."