UH researcher finds ability to cope with stress can increase 'good' cholesterol in older men

Same research finds no direct effect on 'bad' cholesterol

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Loriena Yancura, (808) 956-2254
Department of Family and Consumer Science
Miles Hakoda, (808) 956-3093
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
Posted: Aug 22, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO - Older white men who are better able to cope with stress experience higher levels of so-called "good cholesterol" than men who are more hostile or socially isolated, according to a study led by Loriena A. Yancura, associate professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Science at UH Mānoa. Yancura and her research team presented their findings at the 115th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, CA, on Aug. 18, 2007.

The study found that the same coping ability had no effect on the subjects "bad cholesterol" levels.

Yancura and her team gathered data from 716 men who participated in the Normative Aging Study to look at the complex interrelations among hostility, stress and coping processes and cholesterol levels. The average age in the sample was 65. Most of the men were white and were evenly split between white-collar and blue-collar occupations.

The subjects were given a questionnaire that asked them to rate how often they used 26 coping strategies. Individuals high in hostility were more likely to perceive problems as stressful and react with negative behavior, self-blame and social isolation. Men who were better able to cope could make a plan of action and pursue it, for example. Following an overnight fast, the subjects‘ blood was tested for high-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol), low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides.

The authors had theorized that hostility would have an effect on all three lipoproteins, but what they found was a direct effect on HDL and triglycerides, but not on LDL. "It is interesting that the coping variables were most strongly associated with this protective factor," they wrote. "The results of our study suggest that coping processes also might influence lipid fractions differently and may play a protective role through their influence on HDL."

Yancura said she and her colleagues were surprised that there were no associations between coping and the LDL levels. "One possible reason might be that measures of hostility, coping, and lipids were taken at one point in time," she said. "In other words, we asked people about their coping strategies in response to a problem in the past month and looked at a blood sample taken at the time we asked them. It is possible that changes in LDL might have been apparent in a lab setting or if we had looked at longitudinal relationships among hostility, coping and lipids."

Yancura's research team includes Carolyn M. Aldwin, PhD, and Michael R. Levenson, PhD, of Oregon State University, and Avron Spiro III, PhD, of Boston Healthcare System.

About the American Psychological Association
The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world‘s largest association of psychologists. APA‘s membership includes more than 148,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.