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Optimistic patients are more likely to recover from health issues

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center are reporting that heart patients with a positive attitude have a better chance of recovery. The investigation was focused on over 2,000 patients who were diagnosed with angina, a heart condition characterized by intense chest pain.

After tracking the patients for two years, experts found that those with an optimistic outlook were about 30 percent less likely to require hospital treatment.

The research adds to a growing number of studies that suggest a person’s attitude and outlook can greatly influence how well the individual recovers from health issues.

“Our findings suggest that if we can identify patients who are less optimistic for whatever reason – whether it’s because their disease has made them despair for the future, they have uncertainty about their diagnosis, or they have multiple comorbidities – and help them feel more hopeful by focusing on what they can do, we may be able to positively affect outcomes,” said lead author Dr. Alexander Fanaroff.

The research team checked in with the patients three times over the course of a year and questioned the participants on how optimistic they felt about the future. Individual levels of optimism remained essentially the same throughout the study period.

Around 25 percent of the study participants were classified as being “most optimistic,” and  about 40 percent were “optimistic.” Other patients were found to be either not optimistic or neutral.

The study revealed that, for every degree of optimism, the odds of needing hospital treatment dropped.

Ultimately, the most optimistic patients were found to be 30 percent less likely to land in the hospital for angina compared to the least optimistic patients.

Similar results have recently been reported for respiratory, stroke, and cancer patients as well.

Scientists believe this is likely due to the fact that people who are more optimistic are generally less stressed. Individuals who are less stressed tend to have lower cholesterol, better immunity, and better heart health.

Dr. Fanaroff added that patients suffering from angina often hold themselves back from physical exercise and normal activities.

“People will often cut back on or stop activities they like to do-tennis, playing with grandchildren, job-related tasks-either because of the pain itself or because they worry that the activity prompting the pain is dangerous to their heart,” said Dr. Fanaroff.

“As a clinician, it doesn’t cost anything to help patients with chronic angina focus on what they can do, letting them know that there are medications and procedures that can help them return to a normal life and continue to do the things they like to do.”

“Bottom line – there’s reason to be optimistic for patients with chronic angina, and it’s important that clinicians relay that to them.”

The research is being presented at the American College of Cardiology‘s 67th Annual Scientific Session.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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