Personal conflicts can increase cardiovascular risk

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Adverse close relationships may increase the risk of heart disease, according to a new study published in the Oct. 8 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Men and women with the most conflict in their closest personal relationship were 34 percent more likely to have a heart attack or angina over the subsequent 12 years than those with the least amount of conflict.

Roberto De Vogli, PhD, of University College London and colleagues analyzed a cohort of British civil servants working in London ages 35 to 55 from 1985 through 1988 in the Whitehall II study. The analysis included 9,011 respondents (2,897 women) who completed a questionnaire on personal relationships in Phase I (1985-1988) or Phase II (1989-1990) of the study, and had no history of coronary events.

Associations between negative aspects of close relationships and incident coronary events were determined during an average follow-up period of 12.2 years.

Among the 8,499 participants with complete data, 589 experienced an incident fatal myocardial infarction (MI), nonfatal MI or angina as determined from clinical records over an average follow-up of 12.2 years.

After controlling for age, sex, marital status, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol level and socio-economics, participants, who ranked in the top third of the cohort for a high level of adverse exchanges and conflict in their closest relationship, were 1.34 times more likely to experience a coronary event than with those in the lowest tertile. 

Those with a lower level of these negative aspects in their closest relationship were at less risk, although still elevated compared with individuals in the lowest tertile.

"Our findings partially support the hypothesis that negative emotions may mediate the relationship between adverse negative relationships and heart disease," De Vogli wrote.