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Luci Martin, assistant professor of psychology, discussed her on-campus research at her faculty lecture “Psychological Predictors of Physiological Reactivity” Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room.
Her first study, “Psychological Predictors of Cardiovascular Health,” analyzed the relationships between various factors and physiological mechanisms.
Stable factors, including Type D personality, gender and ethnicity and alterable factors, are coping and lifestyle behaviors.
The physiological mechanisms studied were heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
The sample size of her research was 300 University of La Verne students.
The letter D in Type D personality stands for “distressed,” and people with this personality generally have more negative emotions and social inhibition.
For example, they may be gloomy often or do not want to share their feelings with others, Martin said.
The results indicated Type D personality alone did not have a significant effect on cardiovascular health for the different ethnicities.
However, African Americans with Type D personality were shown to have the highest heart rate variability (HRV) scores.
“This study shows African Americans have the healthiest cardiovascular health,” Martin said.
“We don’t really know why, but this was a key finding.”
Martin said more studies need to be conducted to understand why they have better cardiovascular health, but the results may not apply to everyone.
Her second study was “Psychological, Behavioral and Sociocultural Predictors of Cardiovascular Risk.”
In this study, stable factors – personality, gender and ethnicity and alterable factors – lifestyle behaviors and coping were evaluated with the research participants’ heart rate variability.
Martin’s findings showed only a relationship between agreeableness and conscientiousness with cardiovascular health.
“Conscientiousness and negative agreeableness (were) associated with healthier cardiovascular health,” Martin said, before making suggestions to how people can improve their cardiovascular health.
“Be more aggressive, assertive and be sure to plan and be thoughtful.”
The third study, “Psychological Predictors of Physiological Reactivity,” studied personality, gender, ethnicity, lifestyle behaviors and coping while comparing these factors with the participants’ cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone released in response to high levels of stress.
The average stress level should be about 12 to 13, but La Verne students have an average level of 19.
“This is a very expensive area to live in, and there’s a lot of smog,” Martin said.
“All of these contribute to bad health, and I want to tap into that a little better for my assessment.”
The research also indicated there was a relationship between negative levels of neuroticism and cortisol.
Gender is also a factor affecting cortisol levels, since testosterone is associated with cortisol, Martin said.
Overall, she concluded the results of the third study are similar to the second study.
She also found connections between personalities and cardiovascular health.
“For the most part, extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness seem to be very adapting personalities, and they have healthier cardiovascular health,” Martin said.
“You can’t necessarily change personalities, but we can change coping strategies.”
She suggested using relaxation to cope with high levels of stress.
“A lot of personality make up a person and to find out which one you are and to see which one works for you is important,” Sabrina Delgadillo, freshman biology major, said.
“I thought it’s interesting how she had coping strategies for personality types. You can curve it so you’re at a lower risk of having cardiovascular diseases.”
Mariam Ter-Petrosyan, a clinical psychology doctorate student, helped Martin collect data for the third study and worked with her in the laboratory.
She will soon be presenting the findings from the second study at a conference in Washington, D.C.
“It’s really helpful to have the studies on campus, because it’s not an area that a lot of people focus on,” Ter-Petrosyan said.
“It’s good to raise awareness and knowledge and collaborate with other fields to work on the factors to decrease risk factors for diseases.”
Cody Luk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.