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An optimistic outlook can actually improve heart health

A new study has found that having an optimistic outlook and staying positive can actually help improve your heart health.

Researchers from Northwestern University found that intervention programs focused on psychological well being helped reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

People who are able to maintain a positive attitude are better equipped to stay healthy, exercise more, and eat well.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“We addressed how social environment, psychological well-being and the effectiveness of intervention strategies can help strengthen a patient’s outlook,” said Darwin R. Labarthe, the lead author of the review. “We focused on whether psychological well-being can be consistently related with a reduced risk of heart disease.”

Labarthe and colleagues reviewed past research that associated psychological well being with a reduced risk of heart disease. There have been studies that found that optimism has a significant impact on heart health.

For example, one 2017 study found that older women who were more optimistic had a 38 percent reduced risk of mortality from heart disease. There has also been a growing body of evidence suggesting that someone who feels they have a higher purpose is less likely to have a stroke.

After reviewing past research and studies, the researchers found that optimism correlated with a decreased likelihood of smoking, a higher chance of engaging in regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy diet by eating more fruits and vegetables.

In this way, psychological well-being did have an impact on heart health through behavioral changes, having crucial psychological resources like a support system, and improved overall physical health.

“Optimists persevere by using problem-solving and planning strategies to manage stressors,” said Labarthe. “If others are faced with factors out of their control, they begin to shift their goals and use potentially maladaptive coping strategies, which would ultimately result in raising inflammation levels and less favorable overall heart health.”

Intervention programs that target the different lifestyle, behavioral and health aspects of a person’s life may be a worthwhile investment for reducing the risk of heart disease, according to the researchers.

The team discussed the success of mindfulness programs, yoga, and tai-chi which studies have found help reduce anxiety and improve mental well-being.

“It may seem challenging to help patients modify psychological well-being in the face of a new medical diagnosis, but these events can represent a ‘teachable moment,” said Labarthe. “Just having patient-centered discussions surrounding sources of psychological well-being and information about specific activities to promote well-being are a small, but meaningful, part of a patient’s care.”

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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