Do you see the glass as half full or half empty? According to a new research study recently published in the journal Health Behavior and Policy Review, the way you answer that question may have a lot to with you risks of heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks.
The study, led by University of Illinois professor Rosablba Hernandez, looked at a number of indicators of general heart health and heart attack risks including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, as well as weight and body mass index. Researchers then compared this data between those with more positive optimistic outlooks on their lives to those who were not as optimistic to evaluate the varying risks of heart attack and stroke, and found some significant results.
“Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts…This association remains significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health.”
There are two key factors that researchers discovered when analyzing their data which may hold the answers to why the results were so strong. First, it was not just the general personality types that were being factored in. The study examined those who were more optimistic verses those who were not satisfied with their lives for whatever reason. Being less satisfied with your life, whether due to work-related stress, financial problems, relationship difficulties, or other problems, often means that people will be dealing with larger amounts of stress, which is a large contributing factor to heart disease that often leads to heart attacks. Heart attack risks are often assessed by bio-medical parameters; however, emotional stressers take their toll on how your heart and the rest of your body functions as well.
The second factor the study found was that those who were more optimistic were also the ones most likely to be living a healthy lifestyle, did not smoke, and were most likely to have healthier, more well-balanced diets with better nutrition. The American diet is the single largest contributor to heart attacks and other health problems in the United States.
Other studies have also linked lifestyle factors such as these to health, and have found that things like being happier and less stressed, in addition to a healthier diet, can have a major impact not only on heart attack risks, but for a variety of other issues including breast cancer and obesity. Schools in California have even found that helping students to reduce their stress and develop a more positive outlook reduces incidences of violence in schools and increases attendance and performance.
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