on a Happy Face
(HealthScoutNews) -- Looking
on the bright side may give you more than a sunny disposition.
It also may extend your life.
Harvard University researchers found that an optimistic outlook
can cut your risk of heart disease almost 50 percent.
Other studies have linked heart disease to negative emotions
and stress, but "this is the first study to link optimism
with the onset of heart disease," says lead study author
Laura Kubzansky, assistant professor of health and social behavior
at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
More than 1,300 healthy white men completed a personality test
designed to assess levels of optimism or pessimism. The men all
were military veterans, and their average age was 60. No one with
heart disease was included in the study.
The men underwent complete physicals and blood tests every three
to five years. Information on most men (82 percent) was collected
for 10 years, during which time 162 developed heart disease.
The researchers found that men with high levels of optimism had
a 44 percent lower risk of developing heart disease than the men
with high levels of pessimism.
Why optimism seems to protect against heart disease isn't known,
but Kubzansky says she suspects it may act as a buffer against
stress. Also, people with an optimistic outlook may take better
care of themselves. The study, for instance, found that pessimistic
men were more likely to have several more alcoholic drinks per
day than the optimists. Kubzansky says the results probably would
hold true for women too.
The findings appear in the latest issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.
"We know bad things can trigger heart disease, so I'm not
surprised that happy thoughts can be beneficial," but the
study does have some limitations, says Dr. Dan Fisher, a cardiologist
at New York University Medical Center in New York City.
First, he says the study only included older, white military
veterans. In a more varied population, he says the results could
vary. Also, Fisher says the time period studied might not be when
heart disease is developing. He says behaviors throughout life
contribute to heart disease. Most importantly, he says the study
doesn't look at cause and effect. The optimistic people may have
less heart disease because they're healthier in general, which
also may be why they're happier. "It's hard to know which
came first -- the happy or the healthy," says Fisher.
What To Do
"The power of positive thinking is not just a myth,"
says Kubzansky. And, she says optimism can be learned. She says
a number of self-help books or counselors are available to help
pessimists learn to see the glass as half full, rather than half
quiz to find out how optimistic you are. If you discover you're
a little lacking in happy thoughts, check this article on
This article from the
American Heart Association explains how laughter also can
help fight heart disease.
Reference Source 101