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Are You 'Type D' (For Distressed)?

It's been so useful to have the label "Type A" for the hard-runners who tend to take out their stress on others. Now we have "Type D" for people who direct their stress inward instead — and who, like their Type A counterparts, may run heart risks as a result.

Health journalist Karen Weintraub just tweeted this release on a new paper in an American Heart Association journal. Researchers found that Type D patients had triple the normal risk for cardiovascular problems and triple the normal risk for depression, anxiety and other psychological problems.

Screening heart patients for such personality traits could give doctors the chance to intervene early with psychological or behavioral counseling and perhaps improve cardiovascular outcomes.

"Type D personality and depression are distinct manifestations of psychological distress, with independent cardiovascular effects," said Johan Denollet, Ph.D., lead author of the study. "Our findings support the simultaneous use of depression and Type D measures to flag high-risk patients."

The Type D personality profile is determined using a brief 14-item questionnaire that measures social inhibition and overall mood. Patients responded to phrases such as, "I am a closed kind of person," and "I often feel unhappy."

Type D has been used since the 1990s, the release says, and research on it is growing. I have to confess that I've never heard it used before — but it rings so familiar that I'll be using it from now on. Interesting chemical note: Type D may be associated with a patient's levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and with inflammation.

This program aired on September 15, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth blog.

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