You've probably heard before that having a positive attitude is good for you but now research reveals that those with an upbeat outlook on life can also have significantly better cardiovascular health. The American Heart Association studied 5,100 adults and examined associations between optimism and heart health. What they discovered was that these adults did indeed have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health when compared to their pessimistic counterparts. The research appears in the January/February 2015 issue of Health Behavior and Policy Review.
Data for the study was derived from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, an ongoing examination of subclinical cardiovascular disease that includes 6,000 people from six U.S. regions, including Baltimore, Chicago, Forsyth County in North Carolina, and Los Angeles County. Begun in July 2000, MESA followed participants for 11 years, collecting data every 18 months to two years.
The participants ranged in age from 45 to 84 and 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.
They were assessed using seven metrics:
Body mass index
Fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels
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. Believed to be the first study to examine the association of optimism and cardiovascular health in a large, ethnically and racially diverse population, the sample for the current study was 38 percent white, 28 percent African-American, 22 percent Hispanic/Latino and 12 percent Chinese.
Individuals' total health scores increased in tandem with their levels of optimism. People who were the most optimistic were 50 and 76 percent more likely to have total health scores in the intermediate or ideal ranges, respectively.
The association between optimism and cardiovascular health was even stronger when socio-demographic characteristics such as age, race and ethnicity, income and education status were factored in. People who were the most optimistic were twice as likely to have ideal cardiovascular health, and 55 percent more likely to have a total health score in the intermediate range.
Optimists had significantly better blood sugar and total cholesterol levels than their counterparts. They also were more physically active, had healthier body mass indexes and were less likely to smoke.
"Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts," said lead author Rosalba Hernandez, a professor of social work at the University of Illinois. Hernandez, who is an affiliated investigator on MESA, is leading a team in conducting prospective analyses on the associations found between optimism and heart health.
"This association remains significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health, she continued. At the population level, even this moderate difference in cardiovascular health translates into a significant reduction in death rates. We now have available data to examine optimism at baseline and cardiovascular health a decade late.
This evidence, which is hypothesized to occur through a biobehavioral mechanism, suggests that prevention strategies that target modification of psychological well-being optimism - may be a potential avenue for the American Heart Association to reach its goal of improving Americans' cardiovascular health by 20 percent before 2020.
Subscribe to our Trusted Health Club newsletter for more information about natural living tips, natural health, oral health and skincare. If you are looking for more health resources make sure to check out the Trusted Health Resources list.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.