Cheer up… and save yourself a heart attack: Positive outlook keeps heart healthy, scientists say
04:43 GMT, 18 April 2012
A positive outlook on life helps keep your heart healthy, scientists say.
They found that the most optimistic people are up to 50 per cent less likely to suffer a coronary or a stroke.
Earlier medical studies have shown that negative states such as depression, anger, anxiety and hostility can be detrimental to cardiovascular health.
Positive psychological wellbeing appears to help the heart, according to recent research
But in the first and largest systematic review on the topic, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that positive psychological wellbeing appears to help the heart.
Lead author Julia Boehm said: ‘The absence of the negative is not the same thing as the presence of the positive. 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, socio-economic status, smoking status or body weight.
‘For example, the most optimistic individuals had an approximately 50 per cent reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers.’
In a review of more than 200 studies in two major scientific databases, Doctor Boehm and senior author Laura Kubzansky found that psychological assets such as optimism and positive emotion afford protection against cardiovascular disease.
These factors also seem to slow the progression of disease.
Doctor Boehm and Professor Kubzansky also investigated the association between psychological factors and the biological markers and actions that influence the health of the heart.
'The most optimistic individuals have a 50 per cent reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event'
They found that individuals with a sense of wellbeing engaged in healthier behaviour such as exercising, eating a balanced diet and getting sufficient sleep.
And greater wellbeing was related to better biological function such as lower blood pressure, healthier blood fat profiles and normal body weight.
Experts say that if future research continues to indicate that higher levels of satisfaction, optimism and happiness help maintain health then it will have strong implications for national prevention and intervention strategies.
Professor Kuzbansky added: ‘These findings suggest that an emphasis on bolstering psychological strengths rather than simply mitigating psychological deficits may improve cardiovascular health.’
The study was published online by the journal Psychological Bulletin.