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Introduction

The nature of the relation between personality factors and coronary heart disease (CHD, the nation's greatest killer) is one of the most important if controversial issues in the field of psychology and health. Although there is still a great deal of conceptual confusion, progress is being made in refining the key components of a predisposition to heart disease. The risk of developing coronary heart disease due to a combination of negative personality traits in people has never before been explored. Similar patterns have been reported with three traditional risk factors of heart disease -- high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels and excessive weight -- where each factor independently increases risk but their presence together predicts a greater risk of future heart disease.

Over the years, the type of extra stress that most "Type A" people experience takes a toll on one's health and lifestyle. The following are some of the negative effects that are common among those exhibiting TAB: Hyptertension: High blood pressure is common among "Type A" personalities, and has been documented by research to be as much as 84% more of a risk among those with Type A characteristics. Heart Disease: Some experts predict that, for those exhibiting TAB, heart disease by age 65 is a virtual certainty.

Type A Personality

People with personality type A seem to be more prone to heart disease, are typically more driven, impatient, energetic and ambitious. The Type A personality generally lives at a higher stress level. This is driven by; They enjoy achievement of goals, with greater enjoyment in achieving of more difficult goals. They are thus constantly working hard to achieve these; They find it difficult to stop, even when they have achieved goals; They feel the pressure of time, constantly working flat out; They are highly competitive and will, if necessary create competition; They hate failure and will work hard to avoid it; They are generally pretty fit and often well-educated (a result of their anxiety).

Type A is neither an external stressor nor a response of strain or discomfort. It is more like a style of coping. At the other end of this bipolar continuum, Type B persons are more relaxed, cooperative, steady in their pace of activity, and appear more satisfied with their daily lives and the people around them. The Type A/B behavioural continuum was first conceptualized and labelled in 1959 by the cardiologists Dr. Meyer Friedman and Dr. Ray H. Rosenman. They identified Type A as being typical of their younger male patients with ischaemic heart disease (IHD). The intensity and frequency of Type A behaviour increases as societies become more industrialized, competitive and hurried. Type A behaviour is more frequent in urban than rural areas, in managerial and sales occupations than among technical workers, skilled craftsmen or artists, and in businesswomen than in housewives.

A meta-analysis presented by German researcher Michael Myrtek, PhD, in his chapter on heart disease, Type A and hostility in the recently published APA book "Contributions Toward Evidence-based Psychocardiology: A Systematic Review of the Literature" (see "One heart-many threats") confirms that there is no significant association between Type A personalities and heart disease, but that there is a connection between hostility and coronary heart disease (Geipert, 2007). Another study published in the February issue of Neuropsychobiology (Vol.53, No.1, pages 26-32) found a positive association between increased hostility and increased plasma homocysteine levels, which is also considered an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease.

Type B Personality

Type B personality is almost the opposite of Type A.; This type of person is relaxed by nature and has no sense of time urgency; Type Bs have got no problems relaxing or sitting without doing anything; Type Bs may delay the work they have to the last moment and they usually don't get stressed that easily; Type B could be an achiever too but his lack of sense of time urgency helps him much in not feeling stressed while doing his tasks. Type B personalities report higher levels of life satisfaction and are more likely to be patient and even-tempered. Because of these characteristics, Type B individuals are often described as apathetic and disengaged by individuals with Type A or other personality types. Type B people of both sexes are less driven and competitive, more easygoing-and usually as successful as or more successful than their Type A counterparts!

Why are Type A persons more vulnerable to heart disease than Type B persons?

It may be because they have a substantially greater sympathetic nervous system response to stressful or demanding circumstances-more stress hormones, a faster heart rate, higher blood pressure. Because Type A people tend to view a greater number of circumstances as demanding and because they place themselves in a greater number of demanding circumstances, they experience these heightened physiological responses for longer periods of time each day. Many studies have found that Type A individuals tend to maintain high levels of stress hormones throughout the day-time hours-levels that do not abate until after theyhave gone to sleep. Thus, the deleterious effects of stress hormones on the heart and the arteries (described previously) are greater.

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