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Running head: CARDIOVASCULAR RISK FACTORS PAPER

Cardiovascular Risk Factors Paper


Psych 627
05/04/2015
Professor Rebecca Gazda

CARDIOVASCULAR RISK FACTORS PAPER

Cardiovascular Risk Factors Paper


Cardiovascular disease is a serious illness that can lead to death due to damage to the
heart and blood vessels (Straub, 2012). Blocked blood vessels can lead to hypertension and
irregular heartbeat (Straub, 2012). With this being one of the leading causes of death in the
United States, studies such as the Framingham Heart Study are essential to the understanding
possible preventative strategies. Such studies have shown us that there are hereditary connections
present as well as personality and psychological connections to the development and progression
of this disease (Straub, 2012).
The Framingham Heart Study began in 1948 with intentions to identify common factors
or characteristics which contributed to cardiovascular disease (National Heart, Lung, and Blood
Institute, 2014). Though CVD rates were rising its causes were still unknown. The Framingham
Heart Study observed a variety of individuals over an extended time period in an attempt to
identify potential risk factors (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2014). Men and women
between 30 and 62 years of age returned every two years for physical examinations and lifestyle
interviews and the results were used to map patterns as they related to CVD (National Heart,
Lung, and Blood Institute, 2014). This study has continued through generations, using the
children and grandchildren of the original participants (National Heart, Lung, and Blood
Institute, 2014, para. 5).
Through the study the researchers were able to identify major risk factors in CVD which
are nearly universal among other ethnic and racial groups, such as smoking, obesity, diabetes,
and physical inactivity (Straub, 2012). With risk factors identified, preventive strategies to
reduce the occurrence of CVD were proposed. Additionally, this study inspired new diagnostic
technologies were developed such as the echocardiography and CT scans of the heart and blood

CARDIOVASCULAR RISK FACTORS PAPER

vessels in order to provide better treatment of CVD (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute,
2014).
According to Friedman and Rosenman (1959), Type A personality individuals are more
rigid, ambitious, impatient, and concerned with time management; while being at a much greater
risk to develop CVD. These individuals are status conscious high-achievers who often take on
too much responsibility leading to increased stress (Straub, 2012). Friedman and Rosenman
(1959), state that this personality can be expressed through acts of hostility, impatience, and
exasperation. Minor incidents can set off Type A personalities, causing them to become irritated
when they feel time is not being utilized as it should be increasing mental and physical stress
(Straub, 2012).
Type B individuals are more laid back than Type A individuals (Straub, 2012). Friedman
and Rosenman (1959), state that Type B individuals work steadily, and enjoy achievement but
are not disheartened if they dont. For example, these individuals would rather feel the
enjoyment of an experience than the potential achievement. Because of their reduced stress Type
B personalities are at lower risk of CVD (Straub, 2012).
Personality traits are the characteristics of an individual and how the individual reacts or
generally behaves in the world (Denollet, 1998). According to Denollet (1998), studies what is
known as Type D or the distressed personality type, which has tendency to display inhibited selfexpression and negative emotions. In the Type D personality its discovered that individuals with
coronary artery disease and Type D personalities are at a 4-fold risk of death when they are
compared to non-Type D patients (Denollet, 1998). Much like Type A individuals, Type D
individuals are also at higher risk for CVD (Denollet,1998).

CARDIOVASCULAR RISK FACTORS PAPER

Prevention of high risk personalities and behaviors that can lead to CVD is imperative.
Prevention methods include eating , exercising and decreased smoking or drinking, however,
these methods no not affect personality (Straub, 2012). Strategies for people with Type A or D
personalities include learning to cope with stress, removing ones self from stressful situations if
possible, and relieving tension as well as hostility (Thoresen & Powell, 1992). Individuals that
are able to reduce their stress and relieve anxiety and tension will experience less symptoms
associated with personality traits and CVD such as hypertension (Thoresen & Powell, 1992).
Hostility often is defined as a personality characteristic which deals with the attitude of ill
will or negative evaluations of individuals or events (Siegman, 1994). Though the two are
related, hostility is not anger (Straub, 2012). Instead, it is a multifaceted phenomenon that has
behavioral, cognitive, and even affective manifestations (Siegman, 1994). In a 1994 study,
participants were given an anagram puzzle to solve showed that individuals that answered the
questionnaire beforehand with they tended to be more hostile and suspicious had higher
increases of blood pressure during the study then other individuals that identified as more
trusting (Siegman, 1994).
According to Siegman (1994), a literature review of 45 studies found a link between
interviews on hostility indicators and CVD. Individuals identifying themselves in the structured
interview showed evidence of higher blood pressure and more stress. Hostility being a
characteristic of Type A personality shows that individuals with this tend to have higher instances
of CVD as they are more reactive in response to stress which leaves them more susceptible to
developing hypertension (Friedman & Booth-Kewley, 1987). While the link between hostility
and its impact on a person developing CVD is not fully understood there is evidence of its
presence. According to Siegman (1994), expressive hostility or the expression of anger-hostility

CARDIOVASCULAR RISK FACTORS PAPER

in combination with interpersonal stress elevated cardiovascular responses in individuals


suggesting that CVD developed in response to the increased stress while in a hostile state.
According to Seligman (1998), a good life could be achieved through a persons use of
signature strengths which produce authentic everyday happiness as well as gratification. In
displaying positive attitudes and emotions the affects that negative emotions have on the heart
and its development of CVD could be undone. When a person displayed positive emotions these
emotions helped the person to return to a preferable and healthier psychological baseline
(Seligman, 1998). Optimism is very important and can be learned as personal efforts are linked
to a persons desired outcomes. According to Seligman (1998), it is a persons belief that one can
influence the future in a meaningful and tangible way. Learning optimism is difficult but it can
be done through things such as challenging negative ideas about ones self (Straub, 2012). Selftalk that is negative such as personal failures bring a person down. According to Seligman
(1998), goal-directed thinking fosters hope and helps a person utilize pathway thinking which
helps find routes to desired goals and agency thinking that motivates the use of the routes.
The metabolic syndrome is a common grouping of coronary heart disease and Type 2
diabetes risk factors which includes elevated blood pressure, obesity, resistance to insulin, and
dyslipidemia (Straub, 2012). According to Grundy (2005), the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome
can be an important risk factor for both of these diseases. Elevated blood pressure in combination
with obesity causes an individuals heart to work harder to pump blood through the body, at a
higher rate then what it normally should (Straub, 2012). Like running the engine of a persons
car too much this can wear down the heart leading to increased risk of developing CVD (Straub,
2012). Diabetes is a risk as individuals become resistant to insulin making it so their body is
unable to absorb glucose properly and use it for energy (Straub, 2012).

CARDIOVASCULAR RISK FACTORS PAPER

Cardiovascular disease is a very serious illness that can lead to the death of those
afflicted. However, through observation and research, we have gained knowledge about what
risk factors and characteristics might be associated with the later development of CVD. Though
there are some risk factors that cannot be changed, such as family history, there are others that
conscious choices could potentially alter (Straub, 2012). According to Seligman (1998), a good
life could be achieved through a persons use of signature strengths which produce authentic
everyday happiness as well as gratification. In displaying positive attitudes and emotions the
affects that negative emotions have on the heart and its development of CVD could be undone.
When a person displayed positive emotions these emotions helped the person to return to a
preferable and healthier psychological baseline (Seligman, 1998).

References

CARDIOVASCULAR RISK FACTORS PAPER

Denollet, J. (1998). Personality and coronary heart disease: The type-D scale-16 (DS16). Annals
of Behavioral Medicine, 20:209-15.
Friedman, H. S., & Booth-Kewley, S. (1987). Personality, type A behavior, and coronary heart
disease: The role of emotional expression. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology,53(4), 783-792.
Friedman, M.& Rosenman, R. (1959). "Association of specific overt behaviour pattern with
blood and cardiovascular findings". Journal of the American Medical Association (169):
12861296.
Grundy, S. M. (2005). A constellation of complications: the metabolic syndrome. Clinic
Cornerstone; 7(2-3): 36-45.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2014). Framingham heart study. Retrieved from
https://www.framinghamheartstudy.org/about-fhs/history.php
Seligman, M.E.P (1998). Learned optimism (2nd ed.). New York: Pocket Books.
Siegman, A.W.(1994) Anger, Hostility, and the Heart. (pp. 1-22, 173-198). Hillsdale, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Straub, R. O. (2012). Health psychology: A biopsychosocial approach (3rd ed.). NewYork, NY:
Worth.
Thoresen, C. E., & Powell, L. H. (1992). Type A Behavior Pattern : New Perspectives on Theory,
Assessment, and Intervention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60(4),
595-604.