Behavioral Medicine Approaches to Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

By Kristina Orth-Gomér; Neil Schneiderman | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Personality Factors and Coronary Heart Disease

Ad Appels University of Limburg

A medically trained astronaut with behavioral epidemiological sensors from a distant planet who would embark for a scientific expedition to the blue planet would have an exciting and disturbing trip. Approaching the earth, he would see a belt of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) covering the northern hemisphere somewhere between the 40- and 60-degree latitude, with the exception of an island that turns out to be Japan. Coming closer to this belt, the astronaut has the impression that it moves like a cloud or wave, going from the west to the east. Coming even closer, the observer sees or believes he sees that not all human beings are equally affected by this disease. When the wave starts to rise at a certain place, primarily the richest or best educated subjects seem to be affected. At its apex, the wave afflicts all social classes equally, and at its decline especially the lower social strata. The astronaut believes he sees that a correlation exists between the shape of the wave and a number of sociological and demographic characteristics, such as the number of new factories, the number of people moving from the countryside to a town, and an increased production of food.

When the astronaut leaves his spaceship after landing and makes a trip through the belt, he notes in his diary that coronary heart disease (CHD) is called a managerial disease in some countries and a poor man's disease in others. He also notes that the disease seems to be less prevalent in societies where people often meet with a large number of friends and more prevalent in societies where life is dominated by clocks and watches. After visiting some hospitals, he notes that people afflicted by the disease seem to be characterized by an aggressive and impatient lifestyle, and by some remarkable habits such as inhaling the smoke of tobacco leaves.

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