Does your personality type determine how long you live? - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Does your personality type determine how long you live?

According to researchers, a bad mood might be bad for your health, and a short temper might shorten your life!

"How people cope has a very direct effect on how long people live when recovering from any illness or disease," says Wayne Sotile, a clinical psychologist and author of Thriving with Heart Disease.

Sotile claims that a person's ability to cope is directly affected by their personality type, which is typically classified as A, B, C or D.

For a long time, scientists have believed people who are referred to as 'high-strung', or a Type A personality, would be most likely to suffer heart problems.

Television News Producer Josh Roberts lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is a prime example of a Type A individual. 

"I know, one day, I'm going to have a massive heart attack," Roberts says. "I've said that joking around, but there's a nugget of truth in every joke."

While a workaholic's headaches, stress, and anxiety may affect their quality of life, it probably won't affect how long they live it.

Researchers now believe individuals who possess a lot of hostility, pessimism and chronic worry, which are also the common traits of a Type D personality, are most at risk for poor health.

Sotile says the death rate for these people is similar to someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day.

People with a Type D personality often hold in negative emotions, and have trouble expressing how they are feeling.

Studies have shown people with depression are about twice as likely as those with no history of depression to develop cardiovascular disease.

On top of that, Type D individuals take longer to recover from sickness, and are at greater risk of dying from a disease.

According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter, researchers think people with a Type D personality have poor regulation of stress hormones which causes inflammation, a fast heart beat, high blood pressure, and clenched blood vessels.

"It's a physical feeling, a sensation in my chest, pressure that there's something I should be doing right now," Roberts says.

While Roberts, who is a Type A personality, is feeling the pressure, he's also doing something about it which is what often differentiates a Type A personality from a Type D personality.

At home and at the doctor's office, he's getting medication to relax, which gives his mind, body and Blackberry a much-needed break.

"Recovery is not a solo affair," Sotile warns.

Sotile recommends people with a Type D personality first identify and acknowledge their personality puts them at a disadvantage, and then take action to do something about it.

Workshops and support groups can help them learn coping skills, anger control, and healthy ways of expressing negative emotions.

Sotile says just thinking positive thoughts opens the coronary arteries, increases blood flow, and smoothes out heart rate giving you a warm, fuzzy feeling.

No matter what your personality type may be, that's a healthy tip we can all take to heart.

Additional Information

  • Roberts is a television news producer who suffers from tension headaches, difficulty sleeping and anxiety. He has tried two different anti-depressants to help him regulate his mood swings.
  • Wayne Sotile is a clinical psychologist and author of Thriving with Heart Disease. Click here to read more about him. Sotile says research has shown people overestimate their charm and underestimate their faults which is why its often hard to gauge your own personality type. He classifies "hostility" as looking for fights, seeking out aggressive conversations and engagements. He classifies depression as a feeling of hopelessness, low self-worth and interest in harming one's self, versus a "bad" period in life. He says people living and working with a Type D personality can also experience some health effects from the negativity of a Type D individual.
  • Researchers have established a link between depression and heart disease (the "mind-body" connection), but studies have yet to explain it. Click to read more.
  • People who have had episodes of depression are roughly twice as likely as those with no such history to develop cardiovascular disease in their lifetimes - making depression a more powerful predictor of heart disease than high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol readings, a history of smoking or diabetes.
  • Those who show depressive symptoms in the weeks and months following a heart attack or an artery-clearing procedure are two to three times more likely than those who don't, to die or have another cardiovascular "event" within a year. The more severe a patient's depression, the worse the prognosis.
  • Studies of overall wellness are called "good autonomic tone", a state in which a patient's stress hormones are properly regulated, their heartbeat shows small variations, and their blood vessels expand and contract properly in response to changes in blood flow. Increasingly, researchers are recognizing that when autonomic tone is out of whack, inflammation increases. Heart function suffers and so does mood.
  • Hospitalized patients diagnosed with coronary artery disease who had a positive outlook about their recovery were less likely to die over the next 15 years and had better physical functioning after one year, according to a new study. These findings are published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Click to read more about this study.
  • Researchers at Duke University Medical Center followed 2,818 heart patients after they had coronary angiography to evaluate blood flow in the coronary arteries of the heart. They measured how the patients' expectations affected their recovery and ability to perform normal physical activities. Click to read more.
  • The patients with optimistic expectations had an associated 17 percent decrease in their likelihood of dying over the 15-year study period.
  • Researchers believe it's the coping strategy which may cause a more positive outcome. It may also be that negative expectations lead to stress and tension, which have damaging effects on the body and increase risk of cardiac events.
  • The D, as in Type D personality, represents "distressed." These individuals suffer from a high degree of emotional distress, but consciously suppress their feelings. Click to read more.
  • Early studies show that once a Type D personality develops coronary artery disease, they are at greater risk of dying, and they often have a poorer quality of life.
  • Stress hormones may be so poorly regulated in Type D's that the heart beats faster, blood pressure rises, blood vessels clench, and extra blood sugar is released. Type D's may have more active immune systems, and therefore more inflammation, which results in damage to blood vessels and the rupture of atherosclerotic plaques. Platelets may get stickier, and so be more likely to form clots in coronary arteries. Type D's could have higher concentrations of tumor necrosis factor, a chemical that promotes all these processes. (Harvard Mental Health Letter)
  • Studies are needed to determine what effects psychological treatments have on the risks of heart disease.
  • Viola Spek of Tilburg University in the Netherlands and her colleagues analyzed 49 studies involving 6,121 people. They found that heart patients with Type D personality were about three times as likely as other people to have cardiovascular problems, such as a heart attack or a need for angioplasty, bypass surgery or heart transplant. Click to read more.
  • The reason why Type D personalities may be at increased risk could be because they tend to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol which increases blood pressure. It might also be related to elevated levels of inflammation. Such patients might also be less likely to get regular checkups or communicate well with their doctors.
  • Scientifically "diagnosing" a Type D personality is done with a 14-point quiz which you can click here to read more about.   
  • One of the aspects of the impatient, hard-charging Type A personality that is known to increase heart disease risk is hostility. Hostile people eat and smoke more and exercise less than other personality types. Click to read more.
  • They're more likely to be overweight in middle age, and have higher cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Hostile heart patients who attend workshops that teach coping skills, for instance, have a lower incidence of depression and healthier blood pressure than Type A's who don't go. The key is learning how to communicate more clearly and how to control anger and other negative emotions.
  • Relaxed Type B's can often handle stress without cracking which translates to a higher quality of life and lower likelihood of heart disease-less anxiety strengthens the immune system. 

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