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New research suggests that type 1s' personality types could affect their mortality risk. While that might sound peculiar at first, the research results-culled from 22 years of study-make some important connections.
The basic finding is this: People with type 1 diabetes who scored higher as "Type A" personalities had less chance of dying over the two decades studied. This is notable because in the general population, that personality type-more aggressive and goal-oriented-is associated with greater heart disease risk.
There's another twist, too: People with diabetes who were Type A personalities but who also were dealing with depression saw those positive effects reduced.
The researchers wrote: "Future research is needed to investigate the interaction between ... (depression) and type A behavior, as the latter was only protective in those with low depressive symptomatology. Further research is also needed to explore the relationship between Type A behavior and (coronary artery disease) death.
"Understanding these relationships is an important next step in exploring the effects of psychosocial factors on mortality in type 1 diabetes."
For people with diabetes, the connection between a Type A personality and lower mortality risk is actually logical. Why? Because the traits associated with that personality type could lead to better self-care and treatment adherence.
Think about it. Type As are goal- and achievement-oriented. They charge ahead, focused on the future. They want to do better than other people. All of these behaviors, when directed toward a diabetes care regimen, are good things. Your healthcare provider would probably want you to act that way, too.
As for the difference between Type A people with diabetes (lower mortality risk) and Type As in the general population (higher heart disease risk), the possible explanation is simple: People with diabetes are already at increased risk for cardiovascular problems. Therefore, Type A traits might not affect their bodies in the same way.
But why look into personality type and diabetes at all? Scientists were interested for a simple reason. At this point, preventing type 1 diabetes is basically impossible. (Some therapies and treatments may extend the lives of beta cells in the pancreas, but the disease occurs regardless.) So if you can't change risk factors for developing the disease, might you be able to change risk factors for negative outcomes?
No doubt more research is needed. But the findings offer some tantalizing possibilities for the future.
The research was led by Trevor J. Orchard of University of Pittsburgh, and appeared online in the journal Diabetes Care. Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were analyzed in the study.
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