Positive outlook appears to help heart health, says study

22nd October 2015

People with heart diseases and a sunny disposition are more likely to exercise, stick with their medications and take other steps to help their health, a new study suggests.

Researchers said the findings add to a large body of evidence linking a positive approach to better heart health.

Lead researcher Dr Nancy Sin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Healthy Aging at Pennsylvania State University, said that her team's findings do not prove that heart disease patients' positive outlook directly led to better habits. It was that physical activity, for example, typically made people feel better mentally and emotionally, as well.

"Take a walk every day," she said. "Have a conversation with a good friend. Take a moment just to think about what you're grateful for in your life."

The findings, published recently in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, were based on surveys and physical exams of over 1,000 adults with heart disease.

Participants rated themselves on a standard scale of positive and negative emotions: They were considered to be more positive if they agreed that they were enthusiastic, determined, strong, interested and active.

In general, Dr Sin's team found that positive people were anywhere from one-quarter to 50 per cent more likely to be getting regular exercise, sleeping well and sticking with their heart medications, compared to their less-positive peers. They were also less likely to be smokers.

And when people's positive outlook increased over the next five years, so did their likelihood of adopting healthy habits, the study found.

"We can't say that positive emotions led to those healthier behaviours," Dr Sin said. But the important thing was that the two were connected, and may feed each other.

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