Impatience Omen of Hypertension Alert

Impatience and hostility -- two hallmarks of "type A" behavior -- increase young adults' long-term risk of developing high blood pressure. Further, the more intense the behaviors, the greater the risk of high blood pressure.

Quote: "The notion that a 'type A' behavior pattern is 'bad' for your health has been around for many years. This study helps us understand which aspects of that behavior pattern may be unhealthy." (Dr. Barbara Alving, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

Comment: Science proves common wisdom.

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Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com


Study Finds Hostility, Impatience Increase Hypertension Risk

Impatience and hostility - two hallmarks of the "type A" behavior pattern - increase young adults' long-term risk of developing high blood pressure, according to a new study. Further, the more intense the behaviors, the greater the risk.

However, other psychological and social factors, such as competitiveness, depression, and anxiety did not increase hypertension risk.

The research appears in the October 22/29, 2003, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. It was conducted by scientists at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, the University of Pittsburgh in PA, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The research is the first prospective study to examine as a group the effects of key type A behaviors, depression, and anxiety on the long-term risk for high blood pressure. Earlier studies had mostly looked at individual psychological and social behaviors, and found conflicting results.

"The notion that a 'type A' behavior pattern is 'bad' for your health has been around for many years," said NHLBI Acting Director Dr. Barbara Alving. "This study helps us understand which aspects of that behavior pattern may be unhealthy.

"High blood pressure is a complicated condition," she continued. "Biological and dietary factors are involved in its development. The study suggests that behavior and lifestyle play a role in preventing and managing the condition."

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease, and congestive heart failure, and the chief risk factor for stroke. Normal blood pressure is a systolic of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and a diastolic of less than 80 mm Hg; high blood pressure is a systolic of 140 mm Hg or higher, or a diastolic of 90 mm Hg or higher.

About 50 million Americans - one in four adults - have high blood pressure and its prevalence increases sharply with age: The condition affects about 3 percent of those ages 18-24 and about 70 percent of those 75 and older.

"Although high blood pressure is less common among young adults, young adulthood and early middle age is a critical period for the development of hypertension and other risk factors for heart disease," said lead author Dr. Lijing L. Yan, Research Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University. "Previous research on young adults is limited, and our study helps to fill that gap."