Optimism Lowers Heart Disease Risk in Men and Women

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

New findings show that optimism can lower the risk of heart disease. Two separate studies from Columbia University researchers found that maintaining a positive attitude can keep heart disease at bay for men and women.

For the first study, researchers followed 2,380 randomly selected Canadian adults, ages 18 to 92 over a ten year period that were free from heart disease. The participants were followed for ten years, beginning in 1995 – half were men and half were women. The findings showed that those with average to low levels of optimism experienced a higher incidence of heart related events, compared to individuals with a positive attitude that include less hostility, anger and depression.

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In a second study, participants enrolled in the Nova Scotia Health Survey, researchers measured positive emotions among 1,621 participants in videotaped interviews to find the link between optimism and lower risk of heart disease.

Standard measurements of depression, hostility and anger were used to assess the study group. Again, the researchers found that optimism was associated with less risk of heart disease during the ten year study among study participants who expressed positive emotions during the interviews.

The findings highlight the importance of optimism for maintaining heart health. Past studies have found that women who remain optimistic have a nine percent lower risk of heart disease, and fourteen percent lower risk of dying from heart disease compared to pessimistic women. The new study shows that optimism reduces heart disease risk for both men and women.