The speculation is that men who keep cool and control their hostility avoid increasing levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, which affect blood fat levels, she said. "The theory is that if you stay calm, you actually decrease levels of stress hormones," Aldwin said.
Loriena A. Yancura, the University of Hawaii psychologist who led the study, said in a prepared statement that she was surprised at the lack of connection between coping strategies and LDL levels.
"One possible reason might be that measures of hostility, coping and lipids were taken at one point in time," Yancura said. "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."
The overall lesson of the study, Aldwin said, is that "the personality trait of emotional stability is protective against mortality. Those men who were good in self-regulation had higher HDL levels."
In practical terms, a first step toward self-control is to try not to get too upset about stressful things, Aldwin said. "You have to keep problems in perspective. Most problems are not major when compared to life-threatening trauma," she said.
The best way to handle a stressful problem "is to go ahead and fix the problem," Aldwin said. If a problem is not fixable, well, sometimes you just have to learn to let go, she added.
The workings of HDL and LDL cholesterol are described by the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Carolyn M. Aldwin, Ph.D., chairwoman, department of human development and family sciences, Oregon State University, Portland; Aug. 18, 2007, annual meeting, American Psychological Association, San Francisco