Happy? Positive outlook may be good for your heart
Published: April 17,2012
Tags: Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, Harvard, Harvard School of Public Health, Julia Boehm, Mississippi, Mississippi Business Journal, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, University of Michigan and American College of Cardiology
WASHINGTON — Be happy — it seems to be good for your heart.
Scientists have long known that Type A personalities and people who are chronically angry, anxious or depressed have a higher risk of heart attacks.
Now a Harvard review of the flip side of that psychology concludes that being upbeat and optimistic just may help protect against heart disease
Rather than focusing only on how to lessen heart risks, “it might also be useful to focus on how we might bolster the positive side of things,” said lead researcher Julia Boehm of the Harvard School of Public Health.
Boehm reviewed dozens of studies examining a positive outlook — as determined by various psychological measurements — on heart health. Optimism in particular seems key, as a number of studies found the most optimistic people had half the risk of a first heart attack when compared to the least optimistic, Boehm said.
Why? Previous work shows the stress associated with negative psychological traits can lead to damage of arteries and the heart itself.
Boehm found that people with a better sense of well-being tend to have healthier blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, and are more likely to exercise, eat healthier, get enough sleep and avoid smoking. But she cautioned that it will take more research to tease apart if a positive outlook makes people feel more like taking heart-healthy steps — or whether living healthier helps you feel more positive.
More research is needed but that link between psychological and physical well-being makes sense, said Dr. Elizabeth Jackson of the University of Michigan and American College of Cardiology, who wasn’t involved with the review. Among her own heart patients, she has noticed that those who feel they have some control over their lives and are invested in their care have better outcomes.
What if you’re by nature a pessimist? “That’s a hard question. There’s no magic happy pill,” Jackson said.
Some research has found that asking people to smile helps put them in a better mood, Boehm noted, although long-term effects aren’t clear.
“Sometimes it’s hard, particularly in tough economic times, but taking a moment to just relax and enjoy a sunny day might be good heart health,” Jackson said.
To sign up for Mississippi Business Daily Updates, click here.
FOLLOW THE MBJ ON TWITTERMy Tweets
Twang & Tourism: The Country Music Trail
Top Posts & Pages
- QUIRKY? NO, JERKY — Whatever your craving, Beef Jerky Outlets likely has the flavor among 200+ choices
- Oxford’s FNC getting new headquarters
- Officials set hunting dates for birds; expands dove season by 20 days
- MARTIN WILLOUGHBY — State roots key to Edge Theory's Joe Stradinger
- ALAN TURNER — The ‘Internet of things’ is focus of Camgian's Gary Butler
- TECH 21 — Mississippi's most wanted in technology
- Cochran's attorneys argue for dismissal of McDaniel's lawsuit
- Federal charges dropped against Shumate after guilty plea
- MEMA warns of hottest temperatures of the year