Type A personality is not linked to heart disease in large study

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Although human genes contribute significantly to a person's health and behavior, these two kinds of traits aren't closely linked at all.

In fact, a study appearing this month in the Public Library of Science found absolutely no connection between the hard-driving personality and heart disease, contrary to previous studies and conventional wisdom.

This is among the first findings of a massive, 10-year effort to measure the genes and traits of a single population of closely related people. Conducted jointly by Italian and Sardinian researchers, the U.S. National Institute on Aging, and bio-statisticians at the University of Michigan, the project recruited 6,148 people aged 14 to 102 in four clustered villages on the island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea. The sample represents 62 percent of the population of the Lanusei Valley surrounding the four villages.

Sardinia was chosen as an ideal laboratory for genetic studies because of its isolation and relative stability, said Gonalo Abecasis, associate professor of biostatistics in the U-M School of Public Health. He and U-M post-doctoral fellow Wei-Min Chen led statistical analysis on the project. "If you did this study in New York or Detroit, you'd find people with all sorts of genetic backgrounds," Abecasis said.

The Sardinian study group is essentially one giant family: 95 percent of the people in the study had all four of their grandparents born in Sardinia and one family encompassed 600 cousins. "If you look at small families it's much harder to separate what's genes and what's environment," Abecasis said.

Each of the study participants took a personality test and received a half-day health assessment that included tests for cholesterol levels and other blood factors, an electrocardiogram, an arteriogram and blood pressure measurement. Environmental factors such as smoking and diet were also measured, though they have yet to be analyzed

Contact: Karl Leif Bates
University of Michigan

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