Positive feelings, optimism protect heart

April 18, 2012 at 1:09 AM
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BOSTON, April 18 (UPI) -- Positive psychological well-being appears to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events, U.S. researchers found.

Lead author Julia Boehm, a research fellow, and senior author Laura Kubzansky, both of the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues reviewed more than 200 studies published in two major scientific databases, and found psychological assets such as optimism and positive emotion can protect against cardiovascular disease. It also appears these factors slow the progression of disease, the researchers said.

"The absence of the negative is not the same thing as the presence of the positive. We found that factors such as optimism, life satisfaction, and happiness are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

regardless of such factors as a person's age, socioeconomic status, smoking status, or body weight," Boehm said in a statement. "For example, the most optimistic individuals had an approximately 50 percent reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers."

The study, published in Psychological Bulletin, said if future research continues to indicate higher levels of satisfaction, optimism and happiness come before cardiovascular health, this has strong implications for the design of prevention and intervention strategies.

"These findings suggest that an emphasis on bolstering psychological strengths rather than simply mitigating psychological deficits may improve cardiovascular health," Kubzansky said.

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