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What Does Your Personality Say About Your Health?

What Does Your Personality Say About Your Health?

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 09/14/2009
Last Updated: 11/23/2009

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Did you ever notice how people with certain types of personalities also have certain kinds of illnesses or health problems? Years ago my oncologist told me that the reason he chose oncology rather than cardiology was that rather than being aggressive and type A, his patients were so grateful and pleasant to deal with. (I, for one, do think there's nothing like a cancer diagnosis to humble you, big time)

I personally know a lot of calm, mellow people who seem never to get colds or other pesky illnesses - or at least get less of them than the general population.

So it was no surprise that I came across an article about how temperament impacts a person's physical health.

For example, cynical people, which usually translates to hostility, are more prone to heart disease.

And what does hostility have to do with diabetes? According to researchers, hostility leads to stress, which leads to spikes in a protein called C3. The immune system is then affected and various diseases can follow, including diabetes.

Frazzled and anxious? That may lead to diseases like Alzheimer's. A study of over 500 elderly people found that extroverts who were also outgoing and mellow had a 50 percent lower risk of developing dementia than those who were anxious and frazzled.

So what does this all mean? To me, it means to live a life as unencumbered by negative emotions as possible. I know it's easy to strive for; harder to achieve, don't you think? Maybe you have a special tip to share.

To read more on this topic,
Here's some information on how stress can make you fat.
You might also want to read this about the relationship between stress and your hair color.

Comments

Sheryl,
This makes a lof of sense. I think I have a pretty positive attitude, and I rarely get sick. But the sad truth is that sometimes positive, otherwise healthy people *still* get sick. For instance, my Dad was a mellow, positive person and he got struck down by a rare neurological disorder. But his positive attitude certainly helped him make the best of a bad situation, and he never lost his sense of humor.
Susan

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Thanks for all your comments. This is a hot topic and I plan on writing much more on it. It seems to be connected into everything we do~!

I think this is a terrific post. I wish more people would talk about emotion/personality/mental health and how it influences or even defines physical health. Keep going with this, Sheryl. I really enjoy reading about this.

There is a recent study that says optimists live way longer than pessimists and are less likely to die from heart disease.

My frazzled/stressed personality led to a series of digestive problems. :/ Damn cortisol.

I do worry that my depression and anxiety will lead to cancer, which is why it's a daily struggle for me to try and be more peaceful and content if not happy. I do yoga, aerobic exercise, walking -- sometimes 3 times a day (at least 30 minutes each session). May seem obsessive but it does work. Writing fiction also soothes my soul.

Yes, Nancy and Alexandra, things like yoga, meditation, etc. can help with our stress which, I hope, will in turn lead to better health. I think good genes goes a long way too (lucky you!)as does exercise, of course.
Nancy, I recently completed a six-week art class and both the process of learning and doing was soooo relaxing and great for stress!

Sheryl,

Great topic, but I'm worried. I did an article on stress and found I'm both a type A and a type C stress personality, which means I'm hostile and aggressive, but I suppress it!

Thankfully, I've got good genes and I exercise a bit. I think you can overcome personality traits with some destressing techniques like exercise, yoga, meditation, deep breathing--and of course crafts!

Nancy Monson
Author of Craft to Heal

Both unsurprising AND scary, since there is only so much one can do about personality. I'll try not to stress about it!

So true, Jennifer. As a cancer survivor, I know far too many people whose attitude had absolutely nothing to do with their diagnosis. I do believe that a strong, fighting attitude, though, goes a long way toward getting through the treatments. The final outcome, unfortunately, is not always in our hands although a good attitude is really the only thing we have to fight with, isn't it? I wish your friend well!

This makes good sense to me except that it's not always a one to one (sort of an obvious comment). I'm thinking of my dear friend struggling with lymphoma right now who is one of the most positive and kind people I know, with a very good outlook on life. I guess all that can't prevent you from GETTING the disease but it can speed your recovery (at least I REALLY hope so in her case).

So, Alisa, looks like it's good to model yourself after your grandparents - it sounds as if they have one of the "secrets!"

I'm absolutely with you on that, Ruth; in fact, I plan on posting something this week about a new study about the negative role depression has on the health outcome of cancer patients. There's a danger in the patient feeling guilty if he/she is unable to control a sometimes very uncontrollable outcome.

I agree there's something to this -- but worry that too much of a focus on it can lead to bad results, such as blaming the victim for his disease and repressing perfectly natural negative emotions. There's a randomness to life, illness and death that we have to acknowledge; it's not all under our control.

So THIS is why half the people in my family have heart disease--and not one case of cancer. And why my grandparents on the other side of the family are still alive in their mid 90s--because they are calm, self assured people. Makes sense.

I definitely think disease can be encouraged by certain behaviors. Yes, negative energy is not good. I try to avoid it, whenever possible. Also, I have noticed there are benefits to meditation and massage. I hope you will post further information on this topic as it becomes available.

Interesting how so much about health is hard-wired into who are as people.

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