Link found between optimism and heart health

ONLINEScan-19New study suggests that optimistic people have healthier hearts than their counterparts.

A new study from the University of Illinois suggests there is a strong correlation between optimism and ideal cardiovascular health across socio-demographic and ethnic lines.

The study was published in the journal, Health Behavior and Policy Review, authored by many researchers but led by Rosalba Hernandez, a professor of social work. The study found that the people in the highest quartile of optimism were also likely to have close to ideal or ideal cardiovascular health. In contrast to their pessimistic counterparts, the most pessimistic participants had low scores, indicating low cardiovascular health. These results factored in socio-demographic differences, which may otherwise conflict or skew the data. They also utilized multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis, which is a medical study of cardiovascular disease over a period of time. They accessed health related information through MESA’s participants of about 6,000 multiethnic men and women. MESA’s access to a multi-ethnic sample made it easier to get a general study. Cardiovascular health may range based on ethnicity, so factoring this in helped strengthen their findings.

The researchers used various metrics in their calculation of cardiovascular health. Among these were diet, physical activity, blood pressure, body mass index, blood sugar and total cholesterol. The most optimistic people had ideal values for these metrics or close to ideal, whereas their pessimistic counterparts did not. They were graded on a two-point scale, ranging from zero to two. The sum of these numbers for every category tested would be from zero to 14, where a higher score indicated a better cardiovascular health.

The highest scoring participants were found to have twice the probability of having ideal cardiovascular health. We can imagine, although it is not explicitly stated, a healthier outlook on life leads to less stress and more drive to keep healthy, whereas a negative outlook may lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices and stress.

The study collected data of adults from the ages of 52 to 84 who participated in MESA. The researchers for the optimism study used their data, with a sample size of 5,134, in order to discover the correlation between optimistic people and ideal cardiovascular health.

According to Statistics Canada, cardiovascular disease was the second leading cause of death among Canadians. Many cases of these diseases are preventable, and  a healthier look on life may certainly be a good start.

“At the population level, even this moderate difference in cardiovascular health translates into a significant reduction in death rates,” said  study leader Hernandez.

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