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Personality, diet, fault-finding, and plaque

You don't have to be obese to have plaque-clogged arteries in your thin neck. But if you're quick to anger, you might want to find out whether or not your carotid arteries might be narrowed/clogged by plaque. Sometimes a lack of oxygen from neck to head can be one cause of having a disagreeable personality or outlook. You may wish to check out a news article about a study which has been reported by ABC news, "Heart attack-stroke prone arteries common in nasty people."

Personality, diet, fault-finding, childhood obesity, and plaque.
Personality, diet, fault-finding, childhood obesity, and plaque.Herbs, tea and various spices are sold in the spice market on February 20, 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images).

Scientists in Sacramento and Davis want to know whether you're disagreeable because your carotid arteries are clogged, which means fewer nutrients and little oxygen gets to your brain when you need it, or whether just being nice and polite to everyone keeps your carotid arteries clean as a whistle. Unpleasant people were found to have more strokes of the type that come from clogged arteries and blood clots. Only the recent study wasn't done in Sacramento, but in Sardinia.

That limits the study to an island in the Mediterranean. Are people the same all over the world in their response to others being nice or nasty, agreeable or fault-finding and constantly critical? And are complainers who don't take action to change or those holding resentment or grudges, as well as victims of childhood stresses also going to have thicker carotid arteries? Only a new study might give some clues.

Nutritionists have known for decades the largely unappreciated role of psychological factors in cardiovascular disease risk. It's food and psychological issues that matter in many cases. You can check out the study reported on August 17, 2010 by John Gever, Senior Editor, of the online magazine MedPage Today, ABC Health news site, "Heart Attack, Stroke-Prone Arteries More Common in Nasty People: An Antagonistic Personality Might Increase Your Risk For Cardiovascular Disease." The article site also features an ABC News video.

In Sacramento, the University of California, Davis researchers study studies agreeableness and person-environment fit. UC Davis studies personality and agreeableness as related to the situation of whether you're a good fit for your environment, where UC Davis studied self-concept in preschool children. At UC Davis in the Sacramento-Davis regional area, continuity and change in Person-Environment Fit (PE Fit) and its relation to personality development was studied in a 4-year longitudinal study of college students (N=305).

PE Fit demonstrated moderate rank-order stability and small increases in mean-levels over time. Antecedents to PE Fit included gender (being male), high academic ability, low agreeableness, and low neuroticism. Outcomes associated with PE Fit included greater personality consistency and changes in personality in the direction of higher self-esteem and lower agreeableness and neuroticism. The implications of the findings for personality development are discussed.

Which came first, the disagreeable attitude, the negativity, pessimism, road rage, nasty attitude, selfishness, and hair-trigger temper, or the thickened carotid arteries on the sides of your neck? There are psychological factors that also may determine cardiovascular issues and outcomes -- beside genes and diet factors.

There's a study showing that having a bad temper, being short-tempered, selfish, or a nasty attitude thickens the inside of your carotid arteries and dramatically raises your risk of strokes and heart attacks

The new study shows that individuals with antagonistic or disagreeable personalities have or soon develop thicker arterial walls that may make them more prone to heart attacks and strokes, researchers said. But there's something you can do about it.

Be nice to people, polite, smile, and meditate or do slow breathing exercises to calm yourself down. It's not worth it to get angry, especially at things like road rage or someone riding a bike on a narrow sidewalk when you're trying to walk. A new study finds that angry people are more like to develop thick lining in their carotid arteries.

There's a scale of agreeableness

The new study found that the carotid artery (in your neck) lining was significantly thicker in people who rated low on a scale of agreeableness, according to researchers at the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues. But what if you disagree politically, for example? Do the stresses of disagreement thicken your arteries and raise your blood pressure which remains high?

The study wasn't done in the USA but in Sardinia. In a study of 5,614 residents of the Italian island of Sardinia, those ranking in the lowest 10 percent of agreeableness were 1.4 times as likely to have thickening in their lining of their carotid artery, the researchers found. This held true even after the researchers adjusted for cholesterol levels, smoking status and other risk factors.

The researchers also found that an antagonistic personality predicted increased thickening over approximately three years of follow-up. See the article based on the study, "Unpleasant People May Be More Prone to Stroke," published in the August 16, 2010 issue of MedPageToday.

The National Institute on Aging funded the study. The effect of personality appeared greater in women than in men, the researchers also found. Women scoring high in overall agreeableness showed decreases in intima-media thickness (mean -0.06 mm), whereas men with high scores had small increases (mean 0.04 mm).

Women with agreeable scores below the mean

Women with agreeableness scores more than one standard deviation below the mean -- indicating a generally antisocial personality -- showed increases that were essentially the same as men with similarly low scores, with increases in arterial thickness in the 0.06 to 0.08 mm range. On the other hand, when the researchers looked at the risk of being in the top quartile of intima-media thickness, high agreeableness scores did not appear to have a protective effect compared with participants with scores near the mean, irrespective of gender.

Yet how many physicians are looking at psychological factors when examining patients, their family history or genetic profile, what they eat, and how much exercise they get each day? Redford Williams, MD, of Duke University, who was not involved with the study, commented, according to the news release, that the findings highlight the largely unappreciated role of psychological factors in cardiovascular disease risk.

Social factors: Do nice, polite people live longer? Or do they just suppress their stress and get sicker?

As a nutritionist, you look at what foods the person eats, but you also look at social factors and psychological responses to people around the individual. Reactions to stress and other people, such as your attitude plays a role in putting you at higher risk of heart disease, strokes, or other health problems, even arthritic-like pain.

The degree of cardiovascular event risk suggested by the study findings as associated with antagonistic personality traits was comparable to that of high LDL cholesterol, hypertension, or smoking, according to researchers. In the USA, where are the clinical trials? Who's looking at psychological and social risks and factors that may override physical risk issues?

Thick carotid arteries and anger management needs

If you have thick carotid arteries, should you go to anger management training classes as well as eat a better diet, tailored to your individual metabolic responses? Your attitude helps your risk go up or down. Studies are needed to find out whether cardiovascular risks can be changed by anger management classes or other social and psychological practices such as meditation or learning to let things ride instead of stressing out to control other people's behavior. But who's doing the clinical trials locally?

3 risk factors correlated with childhood obesity

A new Illinois study from the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences has identified 3 risk factors most highly correlated with child obesity. The University of Illinois study has identified the three most significant risk factors for child obesity among preschoolers:

(1) Inadequate sleep

(2) A parental BMI that classifies the mom or dad as overweight or obese

(3) Parental restriction of a child's eating in order to control his weight.

You can check out the study or its abstract online, "Risk factors for overweight/obesity in preschool children: An ecological approach," published in the October 2013 issue of Childhood Obesity (vol. 9, no. 6).

"We looked at 22 variables that had previously been identified as predictors of child obesity, and the three that emerged as strong predictors did so even as we took into account the influence of the other 19. Their strong showing gives us confidence that these are the most important risk factors to address," said Brent McBride, a U of I professor of human development and director of the university's Child Development Laboratory, according to the January 14, 2014 news release, Illinois study identifies 3 risk factors most highly correlated with child obesity.

"What's exciting here is that these risk factors are malleable and provide a road map for developing interventions that can lead to a possible reduction in children's weight status. We should focus on convincing parents to improve their own health status, to change the food environment of the home so that healthy foods are readily available and unhealthy foods are not, and to encourage an early bedtime," he added, according to the January 14, 2014 news release, Illinois study identifies 3 risk factors most highly correlated with child obesity.

The researchers reached their conclusions after compiling the results from an extensive survey distributed to 329 parent-child dyads recruited from child-care programs in east-central Illinois as part of the U of I's STRONG (Synergistic Theory and Research on Obesity and Nutrition Group) Kids Program. The current research is based on the first wave of data generated in this longitudinal study, taken when the children were two years old.

The survey yielded wide-ranging information on demographics, health histories of both child and parent, and pertinent feeding practices. Research assistants also did home visits with each participant, checking height and weight and taking further information about the parents' history. The data was then subjected to statistical analysis.

As a result of that analysis, McBride and University of Illinois nutritional sciences graduate student Dipti A. Dev offer some recommendations for families

Parents should recognize that their food preferences are being passed along to their children and that these tastes are established in the preschool years, Dev said, according to the news release.

"If you, as an adult, live in a food environment that allows you to maintain an elevated weight, remember that your child lives in that environment too. Similarly, if you are a sedentary adult, you may be passing on a preference for television watching and computer games instead of playing chasing games with your preschooler or playing in the park," she added in the news release.

Consider too that restricting your children's access to certain foods will only make them want those foods more, she said

"If kids have never had a chance to eat potato chips regularly, they may overeat them when the food appears at a friend's picnic," McBride said in the news release.

Instead, work on changing the food environment in your home so that a wide variety of healthy choices such as fruits and vegetables are available while unhealthy options are not, he added.

"And remember that it takes a certain number of exposures to a food before a child will try it, let alone like it, so you have to offer it to them over and over and over again. And they have to see you eat it over and over," McBride noted.

Don't use food to comfort your children when they are hurt or disappointed, do allow your preschoolers to select their foods as bowls are passed at family-style meals (no pre-plating at the counter—it discourages self-regulation), and encourage all your children to be thoughtful about what they are eating, the researcher said.

Co-authors are Dev, McBride, Barbara H. Fiese, Blake L. Jones, and Hyunkeun Cho on behalf of U of I's STRONG (Kids Research Team. Funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Illinois Transdisciplinary Obesity Prevention Program (I-TOPP).

Also, you may wish to check out the PDF file article, "Parental Influences on Obesity Risk Behaviors in Preschool Children." Or see, "3 Risk Factors Predict Childhood Obesity More Than Any Others: What Are They?"

Eating family style means passing bowls of food to each person at the table rather than serving individual portions of food on separate plates

Okay, so you're not going to pass a food bowl to a baby and ask the kid to take what he or she wants. But for children able to take food from a container passed to each person at the table and pass the bowl onto the next person, passing bowls family-style teaches day-care kids to respond to hunger cues, and fights obesity, says a new study, "Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Benchmarks for Nutrition in Child Care 2011: Are Child-Care Providers across Contexts Meeting Recommendations?" published in the October 2013 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

When children and child-care providers sit around a table together at mealtime, passing bowls and serving themselves, children learn to recognize when they are full better than they do when food is pre-plated for them, reports a new University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences study of feeding practices of two- to five-year-old children in 118 child-care centers.

"Family-style meals give kids a chance to learn about things like portion size and food preferences. When foods are pre-plated, children never develop the ability to read their body's hunger cues. They don't learn to say, okay, this is an appropriate portion size for me," said Brent McBride, director of the University of Illinois Child Development Laboratory and lead author of the study, according to the January 13, 2014 news release, "Passing bowls family-style teaches day-care kids to respond to hunger cues, fights obesity."

The study found that Head Start centers were in significantly greater compliance with this and other Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics benchmarks than other centers surveyed, including participants in the USDA's supplemental nutrition assistance program CACFP, and non-CACFP state-licensed centers.

The academy's benchmarks were issued in 2011 to combat the problem of child obesity. One in four preschool children is overweight or obese, and more than 12 million preschoolers consume up to five meals or snacks daily at the nation's child-care centers, Brent McBride explained in the news release.

"The academy also recommends that providers eat with children so they can model healthy behaviors, which Head Start staff are required to do," said Dipti A. Dev, a University of Illinois graduate student in nutritional sciences, according to the news release.

Teachers are also asked not to pressure children to take one or two more bites or finish a serving before another food or activity is offered, she said

The researchers said that providers need to help children recognize their feelings of hunger and fullness. "Instead of asking Are you done? teachers should ask children, Are you full? Or they should say, If you're hungry, you can have some more, explained Dipti A. Dev, who is developing a packet of best feeding practices to share with providers. "Asking the right questions can help children listen to their hunger and satiety signals," she explained in the news release.

The Illinois research is the first study to evaluate whether child-care providers are adhering to the academy's guidelines for feeding practices. Most providers did promote healthy feeding by serving nutritious foods and not pressuring children to eat or restricting them from eating. Head Start programs stood out though as having the best policies and feeding practices.

In fact, Head Start teachers who use family-style meals are strong advocates for them, the researchers said. "Teachers who don't do family-style meals have all these reasons that they don't: there's too much waste, it's messy, young kids don't have the developmental skills—the fine motor control—to do that," McBride said in the news release. "But Head Start teachers were telling us ways you could help develop those fine motor skills: for instance, using scoops in the sandbox or pouring water in the water table," Brent McBride added.

"When you first do easel painting with a two-year-old, it's really messy because they don't have fine motor control, but you still do it even though it's messy. The same thing is true for family-style meal service. It may be messy at first until they develop the appropriate skills and learn to pour the right way or hold the cup as they're pouring. It's a developmental progression," McBride said, in the news release.

If children don't want to eat, teachers shouldn't urge them to eat anyway out of concern that the kids may get hungry before the next meal or snack is served, he observed. "If a child doesn't eat at one meal, he'll compensate for it over a 24-hour period. Making kids eat when they're not hungry is probably the worst thing you can do. It teaches them not to pay attention to their body's signals," Dev said, according to the news release.

The study is, "Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Benchmarks for Nutrition in Child Care 2011: Are Child-Care Providers across Contexts Meeting Recommendations?" The research is published in the October 2013 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Co-authors are McBride; Dipti A. Dev, and the University of Illinois' STRONG (Synergistic Theory and Research on Obesity and Nutrition Group) Kids research team. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Illinois Trans-Disciplinary Obesity Prevention Program Seed Grant Program funded the research.