Positive outlook on life linked to lower risk of heart attacks
Having a positive attitude to life may reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke a major review of research has found.People who are able to enjoy simple pleasures, have a sunny disposition and positive outlook on life are less likely to have heart attacks and strokes, it has been found.
It was known that stress and depression increase the chances of being unwell and is harmful for the heart but less was known about how positive emotions affect health.
In the first review of its kind, a team at Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, America, examined 200 separate research studies which looked as psychological wellbeing and cardiovascular health.
The findings were published online in Psychological Bulletin.
Lead author Julia Boehm, research fellow in the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health at HSPH 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, socioeconomic 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.”
Each of the 200 research papers studied slightly different emotional states using questionnaires and assessments to score individuals’ characteristics and outlooks.
They measured the extent to which individuals consider themselves a happy or unhappy person, satisfaction with their life and the extent to which they experience pleasurable feelings.
Some also looked at optimism and hope, the extent to which individuals have expectancies for positive outcomes in the future and enthusiasm for life.
Senior author Laura Kubzansky, associate professor of society, human development, and health at Harvard, said there are psychological assets, like optimism and positive emotion, that afford protection against cardiovascular disease.
These factors protected people against heart attacks and strokes and also slowed the progression of heart disease and other diseases in patients who had already developed them, it was found.
The research showed that people with a positive outlook on life and who were optimistic about the future tended to lead healthier lives overall.
They were more likely to exercise, eat a good balanced diet, and get enough sleep. Yet even when these factors were accounted for, the happier people were still less likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
It is thought that a positive attitude to life makes people more resilient to stress and helps them recover more quickly after things like preparing for a speech, the researchers said.
In one study that was examined, involving 300 men and women having bypass surgery, those with an optimistic outlook were also 50 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital for heart problems or surgery complications six months later.
Prof Kubzansky said if future research continued to indicate that higher levels of satisfaction, optimism, and happiness proceeded good cardiovascular health, it would have strong implications for the design of prevention and treatment of heart disease and stroke.
The review found that one study of nearly 2,500 men and women showed that emotional wellbeing, as rated on a depression scale, was linked with a 26 per cent reduced risk of stroke six years later, even after accounting for traditional risk factors and negative mood.
There were similar results on scores of vitality, even after accounting for factors that cause heart disease such as smoking and obesity, it was found emotional vitality was associated with a 28 per cent reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
Tags: Health Professionals, Heart Disease, natural health, NHS Deaths, Strokes, wellbeing