The climb to the top is full of cutthroat, sacrificial, and calculated steps, but it turns out the social ladder may put your heart at a high risk of health problems. Researchers from the University of Utah presented their study's findings, which compared aggressive and friendly social climbers, at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.

Psychologist put 180 undergraduate students in stressful conversations while they monitored their blood pressure levels for a stressful reaction. The group was split between hostile-dominant types that were more aggressive and competitive, and warm-dominant types that were friendlier and nicer. The hostile-dominant group had significant increases in blood pressure when they interacted with another dominant personality type.

“It's bad news for relentless power-seekers the likes of Frank Underwood on House of Cards,” said the study’s lead author Timothy W. Smith, a research psychologist from the University of Utah, in a press release. “Climbing the ladder of social status through aggressive, competitive striving might shorten your life as a result of increased vulnerability to cardiovascular disease. And it's good news for successful types who are friendlier; it seems that attaining higher social status as the result of prestige and freely given respect may have protective effects.”

The hostile-dominant participants reported greater negativity and personal stress in their lives than warm-dominant people, who actually ranked themselves with a higher sense of personal power. Approaching the first rung of the ladder with grace and positivity has a higher success rate, and confers a healthier heart overall.

Researchers then studied 154 married couples with an average age of 63 in order to evaluate how their end-of-career health panned out. It turns out that the warm-dominant climbers were met with less conflict and given more support throughout their lives. Meanwhile, the hostile-dominant type was associated with severe heart problems, such as atherosclerosis. Of course, hostile-dominance was also linked to greater marital problems with lower partner support.

"Hostile-dominant is not a style that wears well with other people," Smith said. "Something usually has to fall apart first before they are willing to entertain that option. But there is some evidence that it is possible to teach old dogs new tricks, and if you do, it can reduce coronary risk."

Achieving a healthy climb to the top can start as early as your 20s, and it could save your heart health. Humans are social creatures who typically react negatively to negative personalities. Even though there’s no shame in deliberately scaling the social ladder, it needs to be done with tactful class. Being responsive in social situations, with a friendlier and less aggressive approach, will make it easier to ascend. And you'll have more support and a stronger heart.

Source: Smith TA. At The Annual Meeting Of The American Psychosomatic Society. 2015.