The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center who followed 2,816 adults in New England between the ages of 35 and 75 who had no history of heart disease over a period of 15 years.
They found that men who believed they were at lower-than-average risk for cardiovascular disease actually experienced a three times lower incidence of death from heart attacks and strokes.
"Clearly, holding optimistic perceptions of risk has its advantages for men," said lead researchers Robert Gramling, an assistant professor of Family Medicine and Community and Preventive Medicine.
The study also pointed out that as genetic testing and advanced imaging continues to offer individuals more information about their future health, good communication is essential.
"It is not clear whether we should seek to disabuse people of optimistic 'misperceptions' in pursuit of changing behavior." Gramling said.
"Perhaps we should work on changing behaviors by instilling more confidence in the capacity to prevent having a heart attack, rather than raising fears about having one."
The study is published in the July-August issue of Annals of Family Medicine.