Study says patience is more than a virtue
Impatience, urgency can raise risk of high blood pressure
By Debra Goldschmidt
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- More bad news for people with hard-charging personalities. Researchers said Wednesday that they have found a correlation between having a sense of time urgency and impatience (TUI) and an increased risk of developing hypertension or high blood pressure.
"The higher the tendency of time urgency and impatience, the higher the risk of developing hypertension," lead researcher Dr. LeJingh Yan told CNN. The finding applies to young adults who are impatient and do not have enough time to finish what they need to do.
Hypertension is a significant risk factor for heart disease, stroke and many other health problems.
This is important because it shows high blood pressure is not just hereditary, according to Dr. Clyde Yancy of the American Heart Association.
TUI is considered a component of the Type A personality, which research has linked to a higher risk of developing heart disease.
This study was the first time the effects of TUI were examined. Researchers at three universities followed 3,142 young adults for 13 years. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 30 when the study began and included African-Americans and Caucasian men and women.
Participants were given an initial exam for TUI at the start of the study and again two years later. In follow-up visits, the relationship with hypertension was examined.
Additionally, patients were given a 10-question test known as the Framingham Type A questionnaire, which includes four questions on TUI. Those four questions asked:
• Do you get upset when you have to wait?
• Do you eat quickly?
• Do you often feel pressured by the end of the regular work day?
• Do you often feel pressured for time in general?
The study also took into consideration lifestyle differences among the participants and found that people with high TUI had a higher risk for hypertension "regardless of the lifestyle factors," Yan said.
The other two main components of Type A personalities are hostility, which other studies have found to be a risk factor for health problems, and competitiveness, which has not been shown to be related to health risks.
Lead researcher suggests changing behavior
Yan said the study's findings need to be confirmed by other research. In the meantime, Yan said, young adults who have a tendency to be impatient should modify their behavior, adding that the study suggests "a new way of trying to tackle the problem of hypertension" through behavior modification.
Dr. Nanette Wenger from Emory University said two-thirds of people in the world are Type A and that the next step is to consider modification of such behavior, "and if so, does this modification result in a better outcome."
"People tend to think of stress management as damage control" said Gene Ondrusek, a psychologist at the Scripps Center for Executive Health in La Jolla, California. Instead, he suggested people perform preventive maintenance on their minds and bodies much as they would on their cars.
Ondrusek recommended knowing your personality type, for starters. Beyond that, planning better, exercising and eating well can keep you running more smoothly -- both physically and mentally.
Dr. Peter Libby from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston said he is concerned that people might want to modify their behavior instead of taking prescribed blood pressure medication. He emphasized "there is no evidence that reducing stress will improve a patient's outcome."
The findings were presented at the annual Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association.
The study, called Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA), was sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Hypertension has been called the "silent killer." According to government statistics, 50 million Americans have high blood pressure and one-third of those don't know it.
And the late Dr. Meyer Friedman, a cardiologist who first described Type A personalities, felt the patterns are themselves silent. "I cannot stress too much the fact that most [Type A behavior] subjects (even some who suffer most severely from it) are not aware of their hurry sickness," he wrote.
--CNN.com health editor Gina HIll contributed to this article.