A personality trait called "Alexythymia" is associated with the risk of having a heart attack

Those affected are characterised by difficulties in expressing their emotions in words

Alexithymia is the inability to detect, recognise and express one's emotions. This phenomenon, which has important repercussions both on the person who suffers it and especially on his or her closest environment, can appear in different emotional states. The Neurocognition, psychobiology of the personality and behavioral genetics group at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine of Lleida (IRBLleida), led by Anton Aluja, professor at the University of Lleida, with the collaboration of the Cardiology Service at the Arnau de Vilanova University Hospital of Lleida (HUAV) and its head, Fernando Worner, who is also a professor at the University of Lleida, uses Alexythymia as a predictor of the risk of suffering a cardiovascular accident. The early detection of subjects with a high level of Alexythymia can be useful in cardiovascular risk prevention programmes. The study was recently published in the journal Physiology and Behavior.

Healthy people or people with a history of cardiovascular disorders with scores on a high Alexythymia scale (TAS-20) above 60 points have been associated in this study with biochemical alterations, such as elevated cholesterol levels, triglycerides, glucose index or too much body and blood pressure. These people also present more psychopathological symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, hostility and somatization. The research group studied a total of 602 people, 202 HUAV patients who had suffered an acute coronary syndrome and 400 people without a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease. First, a cardiovascular risk index was developed that included factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol values, triglycerides, body mass index and glucose and alcohol and tobacco consumption. They were also potted to find out their Alexythymia score. The results showed a significant correlation between people diagnosed with Alexythymia and the risk of suffering a cardiovascular accident.

"After controlling for age, sex, occupation and alcohol and tobacco consumption, this association decreased, but remained significant for most values," explained UdL professor Anton Aluja. According to the final results of the study, Alexitímia predicted 6% of the cardiovascular risk index for the entire sample, after discounting the effect of age and sex. "Therefore, Alexythymia is related to a worse physical and emotional health and, the fact of suffering, can increase the possibility of developing some kind of acute coronary disorder" Aluja has reported.

"The main strength of this study is the large sample, the number and the consistency of the biological and psychometric data provided" Aluja defined. The study also had the collaboration of the Mutua Laboral MC.

Reference article:

Anton Aluja, Olga Malas, Patricia Urieta, Fernando Worner, Ferran Balada Biological correlates of the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) in cardiovascular disease and healthy community subjects, Physiology & Behavior, 2020, 113151, ISSN 0031-9384, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2020.113151.

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In a study carried out in Lleida by the Neurocognition, Personality Psychobiology and Behavioural Genetics group led by Anton Aluja, with the collaboration of the Cardiology Service of the Arnau de Vilanova University Hospital in Lleida