Your personality and heart attack risk

September 14, 2010 3:12:00 PM PDT
It is probably the last place you want to be -- on your way into the ER with a heart attack. You are at risk if you smoke, have high blood pressure, or have high cholesterol. Another risk is having a personality called Type D.Another risk is having a personality called Type D.

"In patients with Type D personality, we see 3 times increases in the risk of cardiac disease, heart attack," Dr. Jonathan Whiteson of NYU Langone Medical Center said.

Type A people are aggressive, competitive. Type B people are laid back. Type D personality? What is that?

Type D personality is not really a diagnosis. It is a group of symptoms -- chronic negative emotions, pessimism and social inhibition, keeping to yourself.

Dr. Whiteson says Type D's are less likely to take medications on schedule or even see the doctor about symptoms that could be red flags for a heart condition.

"If you're socially avoidant, if you like to keep to yourself, you're less likely to seek medical care when you need it," Dr. Carol Burnstein of NYU Langone Medical Center said.

Under such conditions, it is more likely to have a heart attack. There are also physical factors.

"The connection between heart problems and Type D personality may be that the Type D's have higher levels of stress hormones than other people and higher levels of inflammations chemicals in the blood," B

Those chemicals may lead to faster blockage of the heart arteries. Psychiatrist Bernstein says this report should not scare people, but prompt them to try to change negative behavior.

"Recognition of these symptoms really is the road to getting treated for them and having a better outcome for cardiac disease," she said.

Type D people are also more likely to become anxious or depressed. You may wonder what happened to Type C. Type C personality people are passive, punctual, and very complete: leaving no task left undone. The take home message is if you are a Type D, changing your behavior may save your life.