Heart disease is responsible for one death every 33 seconds across the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A number of factors can increase one’s risk for heart disease, including smoking, hypertension, obesity, a lack of exercise, overconsumption of alcohol, and much more.
Certain emotions may also be tied to a greater likelihood of cardiovascular disease — predominantly those related to stress. Researchers from a 2018 study published in the scientific journal In Vivo highlight how studies over the years have suggested strong emotions such as anger, depression, hostility, and anxiety may be risk factors for heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions.
Of course, we’re only human, and all of us experience these emotions at one time or another. However, some research has found particularly strong correlations between heart disease risk and those with Type A personalities. Often thought of as being productivity-focused, behavioral traits often attributed to Type A personalities include ambitiousness, aggressiveness, competitiveness, and being work-driven, according to 2012 research published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Type A personalities may be more susceptible to stress
Type A personalities have been the subject of study for decades. Follow-up research from 1975 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) outlines how over the course of more than eight years, 257 study subjects had developed clinical coronary heart disease. A strong relationship between Type A behavior and rates of heart disease was found. All subjects were middle-aged men.
So what’s the explanation for why more work-centric people may be at risk for heart disease? Researchers from a 2018 scientific review published in the Indian Heart Journal point out how some studies have shown that people with Type A personalities are more susceptible to stress. Stress can impact the body in a number of ways, including boosting one’s risk of heart disease. The researchers also point out that Type A behaviors have been linked with elevated blood cholesterol levels and coronary artery disease rates compared to those who have more go-with-the-flow personality traits.
Type D personalities may also be at risk for heart disease
Over time, experts have expanded their research on personality traits and heart disease risk to include the lesser-known personality type Type D. With the “D” standing for “distressed”, this personality type is largely characterized by negative emotional states and social inhibition (per Indian Heart Journal). Similar to Type A personalities, these individuals also tend to experience heightened stress levels, particularly in the workplace and other social settings.
Research has suggested a connection between people with Type D personalities and more severe cases of disease, poorer health, exaggerated blood pressure and heart responses to stress, and an increased risk of cardiac death. Because these individuals find interpersonal exchanges challenging, those with Type D personalities who have cardiovascular diseases often delay seeking medical help.
Regardless of whether you’re more of a Type A or Type D personality, there are numerous factors that influence one’s risk for heart disease outside of emotional behaviors. Experts have also explored the opposite relationship, in which heart disease may increase one’s risk of Type A or Type D-like personality traits. Research has also shown that hope and other positive emotional states may offer protection against coronary heart disease (per In Vivo).