PITTSBURGH, September 23, 1998 — Middle-aged women who hide their anger, have hostile attitudes or feel self-conscious in public may have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
The 10-year Pitt study is the first to associate psychosocial characteristics of middle-aged women to intima-media thickness (IMT), an early marker of atherosclerosis or high blood pressure. The study appears in today’s issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
According to study author Karen A. Matthews, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, epidemiology and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, earlier studies suggested a relationship between hostile feelings and cardiovascular disease, but didn’t provide a coherent picture of the characteristics of women at risk. Dr. Matthews evaluated the ability of measures of hostile attitudes, anger, anxiety and related characteristics to predict the extent of IMT and plaque in the carotid arteries of healthy middle-aged women.
In a randomly selected group of 200 healthy premenopausal women between the ages of 42 and 50, those who reported having hostile attitudes, holding in anger and feeling self-aware in public situations were at risk of higher IMT scores 10 years later, as seen using ultrasound.
"This study provides compelling evidence that attitudes and style of expression have an effect on cardiovascular health in women," commented Dr. Matthews. "A woman’s style of dealing with negative feelings may have physical consequences."
According to Dr. Matthews, women need to pay more attention to how they deal with anger.
"It may be best to express negative feelings in a constructive fashion rather than hold them in."
Other researchers involved in the study include Jane F. Owens, Dr.PH.; Lewis H. Kuller, M.D., Dr.PH.; Kim Sutton-Tyrell, Ph.D.; and Linda Jansen-McWilliams, M.S.