Study Shows Positive Outlook May Be Good For Your Heart
It is no secret that negative mental states, such as chronic depression, anger, anxiety, and hostility, are detrimental to cardiovascular health. Less is known about how positive psychological traits affect heart health, until now.
In the first and largest study on the topic to date, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found that positive psychological well-being appears to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events.
Instead of solely focusing on how to lessen heart risks, lead researcher Julia Boehm of the Harvard School of Public Health determined "it might be useful to focus on how we might bolster the positive side of things."
After reviewing dozens of studies examining a positive outlook on heart health, as determined by various psychological measurements, Boehm found a striking correlation between optimism and lower risk of heart attacks. In fact, "the most optimistic individuals had an approximately 50% reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers,” Boehm said.
According to Boehm, people with a better sense of well-being and purpose tend to have healthier blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, and are more likely to exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep, and abstain from smoking.
Boehm cautioned that it will take more research to accurately determine if a positive outlook makes people feel more like taking heart-healthy steps--or whether living healthier helps you feel more positive. But either way, those who feel they have some control over their lives and are invested in their care tend to have better outcomes.
"Sometimes it's hard, particularly in tough economic times, but taking a moment to just relax and enjoy a sunny day might be good heart health."
In other words, "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Your health depends on it.
[image via istockphoto]