These recent years have ushered in a sharp rise in the incidence of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and other life-threatening emergencies stemming from heart problems. Are these really caused by the greater intake of greasy fast food, as proposed by some health buffs, or are there other forces at work that can cause strain to the heart? Experts believe that stress has a tremendous part to play in affecting one’s cardiovascular health. However, some people also undergo stress without succumbing to heart problems. What constitutes the difference, then? What makes one person more susceptible to heart disease while another remains protected?
Studies show that there are several causes of heart problems that are intangible but can be deadlier than a daily trip to the fast food joint:
1.Stress – A study showed proof of this when some pigs were fed high-fat, high-cholesterol diets for a given time period. Then, one group was exposed to a vicious dog pawing at them just outside their pen, while the control group was left alone. The results revealed that the pigs with the stress factor added had more members in their group who suffered from heart attacks, while those in the control group remained well.
2.Perennial anxiety – The kind of stress that hurts the most is not the one that comes once in a while. The pigs that died did not have a heart attack simply by one bark from the dog; the dog’s continued harassing presence resulted in a form of continued anxiety, one that is quite common among human beings. Doctors believe that this day-to-day never-leaving anxiety is what increases the risk of heart attacks the most.
3.Personality – While this is usually innate to a person, the kind of personality one has also plays a part in determining the risk that he has for acquiring heart disease. Type-A strong-willed, obsessive-compulsive personalities are considered to be at greater risk than type-B happy-go-lucky individuals, simply because of the overall effect of always being worried and pressured taking its toll on the heart.
Considering how stress and anxiety are pretty much straightforward, personality may come across as the biggest shock to most people. Is personality really an important player in determining a person’s risk for heart disease? If so, what does one do because it is not something that can be changed overnight?
An anecdote tells the story of a doctor who has the couches in his clinic repaired by the upholsterer. The upholsterer points out that only the front parts of the couch seats look worn, while the back and the inner part of the seat still look brand new. When he brings this query to the physician, it turns out that the doctor is a heart specialist, and most of his patients sit on the edge of their seats while waiting their turn. This speaks of a type-A personality, of persons who always seem to be in a hurry and who always wants perfection in everything.
Another study indicates that the cars in the parking lot of a hospital are mostly parked rear-end-first on a particular time of the day, compared to other times when it is a healthy mix of rear-end and front-end parking. An interview with the receptionist then reveals that that time when nearly all were parked rear first was the schedule for the heart patients’ checkups! Again, this is an indication that people who want to zoom out of the hospital at first chance have a greater propensity to suffer from heart disease.
Although personality is something that usually cannot be changed, at least not in a hurry, sometimes it may still be possible for type-A personality people to loosen up a bit. It cannot be forced, though, but comes as a result of an inward self-confidence that even if things are not as perfect as he wants it to be, it is still all right. The usual cause of this uptightness is the belief that one has to fight by himself to survive, and that nobody else is looking after his good. Perhaps the freedom will come one he realizes that he is not alone in this world, and that he can let go and relax. When that happens, even something as ingrained as personality can be slightly improved, thus decreasing the chances of that person suffering from deadly heart disease.