Have a Happy, Healthy Heart

Here’s some news to smile about: having a “positive psychological well-being” appears to lower a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke.

In the first and largest review on this subject, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health have found that optimism, happiness and being satisfied with life are associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, regardless of a person’s age, their socioeconomic status, body weight or smoking habits.

“For example,” said lead author Julia Boehm of Harvard School of Public Health in a news release, “optimistic individuals had an approximately 50 percent reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers.”

For years, studies have shown that depression and anger can have a negative effect on a person’s cardiovascular health. But little has been known about the impact of a positive attitude.

The findings could have widespread implications. One person dies from cardiovascular disease every 39 seconds, according to the American Heart Association. One out of every 18 deaths in the United States is caused by stroke.

After reviewing more than 200 previously published studies, Boehm and senior author Laura Kubzansky, from Harvard School of Public Health, found that optimism and staying positive appears to slow the progression of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers also noted that those who had a positive outlook exercised, ate a balanced diet and slept sufficient hours at night – all behaviors associated with good health.

“These findings suggest that an emphasis on bolstering psychological strengths rather than simply mitigating psychological deficits may improve cardiovascular health,” Kubzansky said in the news release.

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