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Tuesday, 27 October, 1998, 15:38 GMT
Hotheads in heart danger
Women boxing
One way of risking heart disease?
People who turn the other cheek may have a longer life, researchers have found.

Scientists have discovered that women who lose their temper easily are more at risk of heart disease than those who keep their emotions under control.

The scientists found that hotheads who were prone to vent their anger, either verbally or physically, had unusually high levels of cholesterol - the compound that has been linked to heart problems.

Women who do not take anger out on others were found to have lower levels of cholesterol.

The study led by Dr Edward Suarez, from Duke University Medical Centre, Durham, North Carolina, USA, is the first to show that risk varies between different types of hostility.

Writing in the journal Annals of Behavioural Medicine today, Dr Suarez's team said: "The findings suggest that only certain aspects of hostility, characterized by an outward expression of anger in a verbal or physical manner, and an antagonistic interpersonal style, are potentially coronary prone."

Antagnostic hostility is dangerous

The study focused solely on women. A total of 77 healthy women, aged 18 to 94 and predominantly white, were asked questions designed to evaluate their personality type.

Among the factors assessed were frequency of expressed or suppressed anger, and levels of resentment and suspicion.

"Antagonistic" hostile women had more of the dangerous "bad" form of cholesterol (low density lipoprotein cholesterol) than women who felt internalised "neurotic" hostility.

The finding suggests that expressing anger is more dangerous than experiencing it.

The researchers noted that hostile people generally often behaved in ways that contributed to elevated cholesterol.

Among other factors, many smoked - although this study excluded smokers - and had high calorie diets.

Dr Suarez said it was also possible that hotheads experienced a "whole body" reaction to stress, whereas it did not have such a significant physical impact on calmer people

He said: "It is possible that when individuals experience anger and related emotions they release stress hormones, such as adrenalin and noradrenalin, which raise cholesterol in the body."

Dr Suarez said stress hormones released fatty acids which eventually became cholesterol, and also inhibited the LDL receptors, which act to remove harmful cholesterol from the circulation.

More women than men suffer heart disease. In 1994, 24% of men and 26% of women in England and Wales reported having had a cardiovascular disorder.

Ten per cent of women had severely high levels of cholesterol compared with 7% of men.

Doctors believe heart problems are linked to smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and stress.

Hormone replacement therapy is thought to help prevent heart disease in middle-aged women.

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