Optimism Linked to Cardiovascular Health

January 14, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

If your New Year's resolutions include being healthier and more positive, a new study suggests that you could be killing 2 birds with 1 stone.

If your New Year’s resolutions include being healthier and more positive, a new study suggests that you could be killing 2 birds with 1 stone.

University of Illinois researchers collected data on cardiovascular health scores and self-reported measurements of mental health, physical health, and optimism from individuals aged 52 to 84 years. They defined cardiovascular health using measures of diet, physical activity, body mass index (BMI), smoking, blood sugar, and total cholesterol.

The results of the study demonstrated that individuals with the highest levels of optimism were 50% to 76% more likely to have intermediate and ideal cardiovascular health scores compared with their more pessimistic counterparts. Additionally, the more optimistic subjects had better blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and they were more likely to have healthy BMIs. They were also shown to be less likely to smoke.

Lead study author Rosalba Hernandez, PhD, noted that small steps toward improved cardiovascular health could translate to significant gains for total health.

“At the population level, even this moderate difference in cardiovascular health translates into a significant reduction in death rates,” Dr. Hernandez said in a press release. “This evidence, which is hypothesized to occur through a biobehavioral mechanism, suggests that prevention strategies that target modification of psychological well-being—eg, optimism—may be a potential avenue for (the American Heart Association) to reach its goal of improving Americans’ cardiovascular health by 20% before 2020.”