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Optimism May Protect
Against Heart Disease

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who blame themselves for bad events and believe that things will never change are more likely to develop heart disease than their more optimistic peers, study findings suggest.

According to the report published in a recent issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, people with a pessimistic explanatory style were more likely to develop heart disease and die of a heart attack than those who shrugged off bad news with a view that things were bound to improve. A person's explanatory style refers to the way they understand the causes of life's events.

The findings support the results of previous research linking pessimism with higher levels of anger, anxiety and depression--emotions that may be risk factors for heart disease.

``Because optimistic individuals actively engage in planning and problem solving, they may experience fewer stressors, or they may have more resources with which to deal with stress,'' Dr. L. Kubzansky from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues suggest.

They note that optimists tend to be more social, a quality that has been linked with better health. These individuals may also be more likely to adopt healthy behaviors such as exercising, drinking in moderation and not smoking.

The results are based on information from more than 1,300 healthy, white men aged 21 to 80 who were followed over an average of 10 years. Researchers ranked study volunteers on their level of optimism using a standardized scale.

There were few differences in lifestyle behaviors between optimists and pessimists, although pessimists were more likely to consume more than two drinks of alcohol a day and to have a lower level of education.

Overall, about 12% of the group developed heart disease over a decade, of whom 19% died of a heart attack. Each increase in the level of optimism on the scale was associated with a roughly 25% lower risk of developing chest pain and heart disease, the study found. The most optimistic men also had a lower risk of having a nonfatal heart attack and dying from heart disease compared with the most pessimistic men.

``These results suggest that an optimistic explanatory style may protect against risk of coronary heart disease in older men,'' the study concludes.

SOURCE: Psychosomatic Medicine 2001;63:910-916.


Reference Source 89

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