People who are optimistic are likely to have healthy hearts, demonstrates a new study.
The study conducted at University of Illinois examined associations between optimism and heart health in more than 5,100 adults and suggested that people who have upbeat outlooks have significantly better cardiovascular health.
Lead author Rosalba Hernandez, a professor of social work at the University of Illinois, said that individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts and this association remains significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health.
In accordance with AHA's heart-health criteria, the researchers allocated 0, 1 or 2 points, representing poor, intermediate and ideal scores, respectively to participants on each of the seven health metrics, which were then summed to arrive at a total cardiovascular health score. Participants' total health scores ranged from 0 to 14, with a higher total score indicative of better health.
The participants, who ranged in age from 45-84, also completed surveys that assessed their mental health, levels of optimism, and physical health, based upon self-reported extant medical diagnoses of arthritis, liver and kidney disease.
Hernandez said that at the population level, even this moderate difference in cardiovascular health translates into a significant reduction in death rates and this evidence, which is hypothesized to occur through a biobehavioral mechanism, suggests that prevention strategies that target modification of psychological well-being.
Optimists had significantly better blood sugar and total cholesterol levels than their counterparts and they also were more physically active, had healthier body mass indexes and were less likely to smoke, according to a paper on the research that appears in the January/February 2015 issue of Health Behavior and Policy Review.
Hernandez concluded that the findings may be of clinical significance, given that a 2013 study indicated that a one-point increase in an individual's total-health score on the LS7 was associated with an 8 percent reduction in their risk of stroke.