Your immune system, which protects you from disease, likes you to be dirty and happy (or does it)? A new study shows that men who are hostile and prone to frequent intense feelings of anger and depression could be harming their immune systems, making them more vulnerable to health problems like heart disease.

Researcher Steven Boyle studied over 300 male Vietnam veterans who were part of a larger 20-year study on the effects of Agent Orange. For the study, besides physical tests, the vets underwent a standard psychological test used to assess hostility, depression and anger.

The men had three blood tests taken on between 1992 and 2002. Researchers measured two immune system proteins known as C3 and C4. Both are markers of inflammation, which is the body?s response to injury or infection. Changes in C3 and C4 are associated with a number of diseases, including some that negatively can affect the arteries around the heart.

Men whose psychological screening showed the highest level of hostility, depressive symptoms and anger had a 7.1 percent increase in their C3 levels, while men with low levels of these attributes showed no change over the 10-year study period.

Researcher Edward Suarez says, “Hostile, depressed and angry people see the world around them in a different way, and sometimes they see it as them against the world. That kind of lifestyle often leads to greater stress and possibly changes in the way the body functions that could lead to disease.”

For those who need to protect themselves from milder diseases, like the flu, there’s good news: BBC News reports that a herbal remedy that can be purchased in health food stores?echinacea?DOES work. It can cut your chances of getting a cold or the flu in half, and if you DO get a cold, it won’t last as long.

It will be interesting to see if soldiers returning from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan experience a statistical increase in heart attacks?besides their other health problems.

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