Optimism Might Cut Your Risk for Heart Attack

WEDNESDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- Being upbeat is good for your heart, a new study suggests.

Many previous studies have shown that negative mental states -- such as depression, anger, anxiety and hostility -- can harm the heart.

This Harvard School of Public Health review of more than 200 studies found that positive feelings appear to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and events such as heart attack and stroke.

"The absence of the negative is not the same thing as the presence of the positive," lead author Julia Boehm, a research fellow in the department of society, human development, and health, said in a university news release. "We found that factors such as optimism, life satisfaction and happiness are associated with reduced risk of [cardiovascular disease] regardless of such factors as a person's age, socioeconomic status, smoking status or body weight."

"For example, the most optimistic individuals had an approximately 50 percent reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers," Boehm noted.

The researchers also found that people with a sense of psychological well-being engaged in healthy behaviors such as exercising, eating a balanced diet and getting sufficient sleep. In addition, greater psychological well-being was associated with lower blood pressure, healthier blood-fat status and normal body weight.

The study was published online April 17 in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

If future research confirms that higher levels of satisfaction, optimism and happiness benefit cardiovascular health, the findings could prove important in the creation of prevention and treatment strategies, the researchers said.

More than 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day (an average of one death every 39 seconds) and stroke accounts for approximately one in 18 deaths in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health outlines ways to reduce heart risks.

SOURCE: Harvard School of Public Health, news release, April 17, 2012

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