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25-08-2010 | Stroke | Article

Antagonistic personality linked to arterial thickening

Abstract

Free abstract

MedWire News: People who are antagonistic towards others have greater increases in carotid artery thickening over time than their more agreeable peers, researchers report.

"Indeed, those who scored in the bottom 10% of agreeableness (ie, those who were the most antagonistic) had an approximately 40% increase in risk for elevated intima-media thickness (IMT)," say Angelina Sutin, from the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, and colleagues.

People who had a manipulative and aggressive disposition were particularly likely to have increased IMT, say Sutin et al. In addition, women with antagonistic traits had similar carotid arterial thickness to antagonistic men, indicating that this characteristic decreased the impact of gender on IMT.

The researchers compared IMT measurements with agreeableness assessed using the Italian version of the Revised NEO Personality Inventory, which covered the facets of trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness.

Measurements were assessed in 5614 individuals, with a mean age of 42.51 years, who were taking part in a large, ongoing study of the genetic and environmental basis of complex traits and age-related processes. The researchers also examined among 4634 individuals, with a mean age of 45.77 years, who had a second valid IMT assessment approximately 3 years later.

Agreeableness was associated with a 16% reduction in the risk of being in the top quartile of IMT levels. In addition, participants who scored in the lowest 10% of agreeableness had an odds ratio of 1.40 for elevated IMT compared with others.

Although agreeableness had a modest effect on IMT, the researchers note that it was similar in magnitude to other major risk factors for carotid thickening including smoking, the use of antihypertensive medication, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

"Determining which personality traits contribute to arterial thickening will help to identify who is most at risk and who would benefit most from targeted interventions," Sutin and team report in the journal Hypertension.

They add: "Interventions aimed at modifying coping mechanisms, improving anger management as well as other behavioral, emotional, and cognitive expressions of trait antagonism (including unhealthy lifestyles), can play an important role in clinical practice."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Anita Wilkinson