In this traditional ancient practice of medicine, the role of personal behavior and one’s deeds have been clearly implicated in causation both physical and mental illnesses. A long time ago Sikh masters advised their followers to shed hostility and clean their minds in order to live long and happy lives. Similarly in modern era also certain personal characteristics and quirks of behavior have been shown to cause various physical and emotional illnesses. One type of human behavior which has been shown to be clearly linked with coronary artery disease (heart disease) is called “Type A” behavior and personality of individuals displaying such behaviors is called ‘‘Type A Personality.”

Friedman and Rosenman developed the concept that a specific behavior pattern, “Type A’”’, set into motion the pathophysiology necessary for the production of coronary artery disease. They included the contribution of ‘“‘Type A”’ behavior equally with other major risk factors for coronary disease such as, hypertension, high blood cholesterol, and obesity, smoking and possibly strong family history. According to one study coronary artery disease strikes persons with “Type A’’ personality seven times, more than the general population and all due to this, such individuals are termed as “Coronary prone individuals.”

Type A behavior pattern features competitiveness, ambitious, drive for success, restlessness, easily provoked, impatience, devotion to work, a subjective sense of time, urgency, abruptness of speech and gestures and tending to competitive hostility towards others. Such persons are constantly engaged in a struggle to achieve, to outdo others and to meet deadlines. They are always on the go to do something and are then identified as “go getters.’’ They walk fast, eat fast and frequently have been told by their spouses or friends to slow down in working and living habits. They play any type of game to win only (even with young children). They want to work alone thus avoiding competition with others. They display shallow laughter and vague smiles. They also show humming and speech blurring.

The coronary prone behavior pattern is much more common among men, though research shows that few women also show such behavior as well. Among woman “Type A” behavior is more common in employed than housewives. It is much rarer in no industrialized societies which indicate that cultural and socioeconomic factors a responsible for the development of such behavior.

Type an individuals show elevated serum triglycerides and cholesterol values and they react with greater sympathetic arousal which in chronic conditions may give rise to hypertension and rapid heart rate. Atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) is also commonly associated with this personality.

“Type A’ behavior is not a stress itself; rather it represents a chronic persistent behavioral state which has been learned in the childhood years of one’s life. Parental attitudes to expect perfection and super perfection may precipitate this behavior. So in other words this is a learned coping type of behavior to stressful situations, to fulfill the excessive demands of the society.

Since ‘“‘Type A”’ personality is clearly linked with coronary artery disease, attempts have begun to modify it through a variety of means. Progressive relaxation, autohypnosis, meditation and biofeedback have all been tried. Behavior modification, in the form of learning to make changes in daily routines to reduce stress and avoid situations and persons who induce in him or her competitiveness, time pressure and achievement motivation. For many “go getters” learning new behavior patterns may mean additional years to “‘go’” although at a more relaxed pace. Physical exercise and various other yogic exercises are also helpful to such individuals.

Article extracted from this publication >> March 15, 1985