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Optimism May Keep Your Hearth Healthy: Optimistic People Have Better Cardiovascular Health

First Posted: Jan 10, 2015 07:10 AM EST
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Are you optimistic? Then you may just have a healthier heart. Scientists have found that those who have upbeat outlooks on life have significantly better cardiovascular health.

"Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts," said Rosalba Hernandez, the lead author of the new study, in a news release. "This association remains significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health."

In this case, the researchers assessed participants' cardiovascular health with seven metrics: blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels, dietary intake, physical activity and tobacco use. The researchers also assessed their levels of optimism, mental health and physical health based on self-reported extant medical diagnoses.

The researchers compared the volunteers' total health scores with their levels of optimism. In the end, they found that those who were the most optimistic were 50 and 76 percent more likely to have total health scores in the intermediate or ideal ranges, respectively.

In general, optimists had significantly better blood sugar and total cholesterol levels than their counterparts. They were also more physically active, had healthier body mass indexes and were less likely to smoke.

"At the population level, even this moderate difference in cardiovascular health translates into a significant reduction in death rates," said Hernandez. "This evidence, which is hypothesized to occur through a biobehavioral mechanism, suggests that prevention strategies that target modification of psychological well-being-e.g., optimism-may be a potential avenue for AHA to reach its goal of improving Americans' cardiovascular health by 20 percent before 2020."

The findings are published in the journal Health Behavior & Policy Review.

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