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Gratitude's Good For The Heart, Scientists Say

First Posted: Nov 23, 2015 06:38 PM EST
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With Thanksgiving just a few days away, it's great to be thankful for all the good things in your life.

A new study published in the journal Spirituality and Clinical Practice reveals that showing some gratitude can also result in improved mental and physical health--particularly for patients with asymptomatic heart failure.

"We found that more gratitude in these patients was associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health," Paul J. Mills, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

During the study, researchers analyzed data from 186 men and women average age 66 who had experienced some heart damage, according to NPR--either from years of sustained high blood pressure or as the result of a heart attack. They were required to fill out a standard questionnaire to rate their gratitude regarding the people, places and things in their lives, the researchers stated. 

Findings showed that the higher the gratitude scores were , the better mood and sleep quality were and the lower levels of inflammation were, as well; this is particularly important as high levels of inflammation can result in plaque buildup in the arteries. Lowering these health issues through a therapeutic means can help to reduce the risk of reoccurring problems. 

"We found that those patients who kept gratitude journals for those eight weeks showed reductions in circulating levels of several important inflammatory biomarkers, as well as an increase in heart rate variability while they wrote. Improved heart rate variability is considered a measure of reduced cardiac risk," said  lead author Paul J. Mills, PhD, professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego, in a news release. "It seems that a more grateful heart is indeed a more healthy heart, and that gratitude journaling is an easy way to support cardiac health."

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