Want to avoid heart attacks, or, you know, just be able to run a mile without thinking you’re about to die? Try getting happy! A new study lead by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Center for Research Resources found that people with optimistic outlooks are twice as likely to have ideal heart health.
This study is the first of its kind to include an ethnically and racially diverse participant pool.
The study took a look at 11 years’ worth of data from 6,000 participants whose ages range from 45-84. Subjects were asked to complete surveys regarding their mental health, optimism levels, and physical health. Participants’ heart health was evaluated based on the seven factors the American Heart Association (AHA) uses to determine health, including blood pressure, dietary intake, physical activity and tobacco use. The research team factored in other characteristics like age, race and socioeconomic status, which only increased the correlation between optimism and health.
Beyond just heart health, overall physical wellness scores increased with optimism levels. People with a positive outlook were more likely to have better blood sugar and cholesterol levels, were less likely to smoke, and were more physically active than their pessimistic peers. The AHA has big goals for improving Americans’ cardiovascular health within the next five years, and focusing on keeping patients’ spirits up may prove to be just as important as encouraging physically healthy behaviors.
Optimism isn’t a switch to flip on overnight, as the yoga teachers and Oprahs of the world would like us to believe, but it can be a learned thought pattern. Try to spend a few minutes focusing on joy every day — it’s a much easier heart workout than spin class! [Science Daily]
Original by Claire Hannum