Optimists may enjoy better heart health

Jan. 27, 2015—Are you a “glass half-full” type of person? That attitude may be good for your heart health, according to a study in Health Behavior and Policy Review.

Researchers found that people with a generally optimistic outlook on life tended to measure better in specific areas of heart health than their gloomier counterparts.

The research

The study involved 5,134 people ages 45 to 84. Participants took surveys to assess their mental health, physical health and levels of optimism.

In addition, researchers looked at several measures of heart health, such as body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diet, physical activity and tobacco use.

Based on the recommendations of the American Heart Association, participants were rated on each measure as poor, intermediate or ideal.

When researchers compared heart health scores and optimism levels, they noted a correlation between increased optimism and higher heart health scores. Compared to the more pessimistic participants, the optimists:

  • Had higher odds of having ideal cardiovascular health
  • Had significantly better blood sugar and cholesterol levels
  • Were more physically active
  • Had lower body mass indexes
  • Were less likely to be smokers

What’s a pessimist to do?

While researchers noted the link between optimism and heart health, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact relationship between them. For instance, earlier studies have shown that optimistic people are more likely to exercise more and have healthier diets and are less likely to smoke—all of which can affect heart health. Or it could be that optimists are better-equipped to face adversity and stress, making them less likely to engage in unhealthy coping behaviors, such as drinking alcohol or smoking.

Whatever the case, if you tend to have a pessimistic view on life, you may want to pause for a moment to take stock of your heart health. Changes in lifestyle, such as eating better and quitting smoking may help protect your heart. Talk with your doctor and find out where you stand—and what you can do to help your heart stay healthy.


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