Named changed. One year into their marriage Rita husband Joe threatened to die of a heart attack because he disliked, nay, detested her housewifely skills, her plump body, her expensive tastes and teach her a damn good lesson. This threat continued with gloomy predictability until he had a mild heart attack when he was nudging 40. This was followed in rapid succession with high blood pressure and diabetes, peppered with Its all your fault I told you so. He finally succumbed before his 50th birthday.
Joe was a teetotaler, had never smoked or touched alcohol in his life, was a strict vegetarian, followed his doctor advice and took his prescribed medication faithful, has a relatively non-stress job in a packaging business. He was not your classic Type A personality short tempered, competitive, aggressive, ambitious workaholic who are supposed to be prone candidates for coronary heart disease.
It was only in 1997 that doctors have revised the opinion that most Type A will develop heart problems. They found that plenty of men who talk fast, walk fast, live fast, live fast are perfectly healthy and happy.
Simultaneously, a mountain of evidence is pilling up that negative emotions of personality and disposition are crucial factors in the development of heart attack, the occurrence of heart attack and the survival rates of people who suffer them.
The difference between the old thinking and the new is that only certain aspects of the Type A personality have turned out to be important. Cheek by jowl with them are a gaggle of mental and emotional factors that were not part of the earlier picture.
CAN YOUR PERSONALITY KILL YOU ?
Contemporary doctors have detailed the followed factors as having the greatest influence in the mind-heart connection :
YOU ARE A BITTER BROODER
Its a downer. The more you are beset by the blahs the more likely you are to be felled by a heart attack or stroke. And if you stay despondent while recovering which is somewhat justified considering the Non-Riotious Act that your doctor has read you a Duke University study suggests that you may be upto 84% more likely to die over the next 5 to 10 years, probably from another heart attack.
The latest study, published in the journal Circulation, found that people who had been diagnosed with depression 13 years earlier were four times as likely to suffer a heart attack as those who were not depressed.
What more, some evidence suggests that you do not have to be clinically depressed to be at risk. A study of 730 Danish men and women found that being chronically blue ( that is, having some symptoms of depression but not enough to be diagnosed with the disorder) boosts the likelihood of heart attack.
Several factors seem to underlie the connection. Depressed people have more rapid heart rates, higher levels of stress hormones, and heart rhythms that do not adjust well to changes in physical activity. They also appear to have stickier platelets, so their blood may clot more easily, putting them at greater risk for blocked blood vessels and heart attacks.
But there may be other contributing factors : Compared with non-depressed people, the depressed are less likely to curb unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking or to practice healthy ones like eating well and exercising.
Depression and hopelessness also become partners in insomnia. You may mull over these questions sadly: I am not doing so well. Will I be able to make it? Is it worth living will all these bans? Will I ever get a promotion at this rate? Will my sex life suffer? Dejection makes a difference before a heart attack, too. In a study tracking 942 middle aged Finnish men over four years, the build up of artery clogging plaque progressed fastest in those who were severely depressed.
YOU ARE A WORRY WART
We all worry to some extent or the other. That normal. Its how much you worry that matters. You can worry about the price of onions or whether your business will collapse or whether the extortionists will target you or whether your building will collapse. If you spend all your waking hours worrying, you can worry yourself to death.
Acute stress and anxiety sets off a rush of adrenaline and other hormones that cause the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to surge, while signalling cells to dump fat into the bloodstream for quick energy.
Repeated blood pressure surges can damage the arterial linings, which can lead to ischemia or a blockage of the coronary artery (coronary thrombosis). Fat in the bloodstream that is not burned by muscles gets converted into cholesterol and can end up as plaque in the coronary arteries.
High anxiety over your own prospects for survival after a heart attack wont not do you much good either. Worrying about your dicky heart will propel it into acting up with more vehemence.
YOU ARE AN ANGER ADDICT
Anger is your body normal response to being threatened or frustrated. When you are angry you breathe harder, your heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises, your pupils dilate, your digestion is suspended your blood sugar soars, and blood is diverted from other organs to the heart, the central nervous system and muscles. The brain sends a message to your body to pump out the action hormone nor-adrenaline which kick-starts fatty acids from your fat deposits into action. Originally this gave humans the strength to fight or take flight, but today, since these responses are not always necessary, your blood becomes milky with free fatty acids which can fur up the blood vessels, narrow the arteries, cause a blood clot and make your pant for oxygen all precursors of a heart attack.
Anger is a powerful poison. But frequently it brews into a noxious stew with hostility and cynicism, all of which are independently linked to heart disease. However, modern research shows that blowing your top as long as it is not too much and too often is better than bottling it up. Harbouring anger not only strains the heart but can affect the blood clotting ability, constrict arteries and slow down blood flow to the organs.
In a study at the Institute of Heart-Math in Boulder Creek, California, researchers found that anger and anxiety can cause the heart rhythms to become desynchronized, increasing the risk of arrhythmia, which, in its most dangerous form, can prevent the heart from pumping enough blood to the brain and other vital organs.
P.S. A person who perpetually pissed off is more likely to seek solace in nicotine and alcohol.
YOU HAVE LOST CONTROL
Of your job, your marriage, your social status whatever used to turn you on. This causes a chain reaction of negative emotions which play a major role in how you respond to stress.
YOU STIFLE YOUR FEELINGS
Most of the emotions that contribute to heart disease can be buffered by interaction with other people. Social support could be had by opening out to a confidante, who could be a spouse, family member or friend. Women find pouring their hearts out easier to do, which is why their organ is stronger than their tightlipped counterparts.
Even superficial chatting can help, say from the barber who cuts your hair month after month. The less contact you have with others, the worse is your heart disease prognosis.
YOU ARE A TYPE D FOR DISTRESSED
That how docs now label the new heart disease-prone man. Like Rita husbands. Remember him?
Type D is a non-appealing guy who never smiles, whose brow is perpetually creased with anxiety. He is forever grumbling about something or the other, and is insecure about his job, marriage and such. He keeps others at a distance and his poker face hides his true feeling. But if you cross him, he may chew up your ear or stew over the grievance forever and always. Right now Type D is a freshly propounded theory. But what is certain is that all these emotions do not exist in a vacuum. They feed vicariously off each other in a heartbreaking cycle.
For just as hostility and anger release fight or flight stress hormones, other negative traits also aggravate these very responses. Anxiety, distress, social inhibition and the teeth gritting suppression of emotion have all been shown to raise blood pressure independently.
Of course, everyone gets angry and feels anxious from time to time. The question is, when do such emotions become dangerous ? When you experience them routinely during the day, say researchers. The cycle of negative emotions can be specially harmful during episodes of stress. They are doubly difficult to deal with when you are feeling low and can not or do not know how to reach out to other for help.
A Belgian study shows that 5 years after their diagnosis, Type D patients had three times greater risk of death than patients who were more outgoing and optimistic.
BE HEART SMART
Cross our hearts. There hope for the personality-challenged person, although you may treat the statements with skepticism. Being aware of your emotions, having an outlet for them and adopting more healthful emotions can help prevent problems before they occur. Here how to give your heart a helping mind:
LEND A HAND
Do not allow yourself to be consumed by one aspect to existence, be it work, heart or offspring. Lend your talents to a cause an old peoples home, a keep Your Record Clean Committee, an orphanage. Visit a relative living alone regularly. Teach your maid child to read. You will get a helper high of positive feelings and pride.
BE A BUSY BEE
Specially after retirements. The demands of gardening, golf, travel only partially replace the mental demands made by a full-time job. The resulting void is often filled with self worry. Motivate yourself to follow a routined programme of mental activity. Learn a language, get computer-friendly, write your memories. Physical activity also clears your head of prickly thoughts.
Give fun your full attention. You can not enjoy yourself and worry at the same time. Learn to laugh. Play a game with friends. Try something new. Go dancing. Join a housie session. Whatever you do, do it with others. The more, the merrier. Playing Solitaire alone wont not leave you feeling upbeat
GIVE YOURSELF A GOOD TAKING TO
How to speak to others is one thing. (Tip ; Try listening more, and unclench your teeth while you do.) How you speak to yourself is more important. Hostility, depression and anxiety often stem from faulty perceptions of what happening around you.
If so then you are harbouring a slew of negative attitudes. Get help in breaking them and others that you recognize. Tell yourself I can handle this, I know what I am doing, I am a good human being. Take deep breaths and repeat the words confidently to release positive energy. Think of life as a glad adventure rather than a miserable series of pains and frustration, grief and defeat. Life is not what happens to you, life is what you think. And soon your heart will tick to a more positive beat.
strengthen family ties
Being married lowers your risk of heart disease not only because it means someone is there when you need help but because you have at least one good friend : Your spouse. Having kids is also a plus because children provide structure, strength and support to life. If you are single, a sibling or parent can provide domestic stability.
Of course, exactly what you do to get rid of negativity is not as important as just doing something about it. Negative emotions, like physical pain are a signal to the body that something is wrong and they should be addressed at some level. Right now. Or a cardiologist may have to address it later.
HOW HOSTILE ARE YOU?
Three aspects of hostility can harm your health : Anger, aggression and cynicism. Add to that negative attitudes and then ask yourself the following questions to gauge whether your emotions are putting your heart at risk. Place a check next to all that apply to you.