Positive feelings may help protect cardiovascular health

April 17, 2012

Over the last few decades numerous studies have shown negative states, such as depression, anger, anxiety, and hostility, to be detrimental to cardiovascular health. Less is known about how positive psychological characteristics are related to heart health. In the first and largest systematic review on this topic to date, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers found that positive psychological well-being appears to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events.

The study was published online April 17, 2012 in Psychological Bulletin.

The reports more than 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease (CVD) each day, an average of one death every 39 seconds. Stroke accounts for about one of every 18 U.S. deaths.

"The absence of the negative is not the same thing as the presence of the positive. We found that factors such as optimism, , and happiness are associated with reduced risk of CVD regardless of such factors as a person's age, socioeconomic status, smoking status, or body weight," said lead author Julia Boehm, research fellow in the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health at HSPH. "For example, the most optimistic individuals had an approximately 50% reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers," she said.

In a review of more than 200 studies published in two major scientific databases, Boehm and senior author Laura Kubzansky, associate professor of society, human development, and health at HSPH, found there are psychological assets, like optimism and positive emotion, that afford protection against cardiovascular disease. It also appears that these factors slow the progression of disease.

To further understand how psychological well-being and CVD might be related, Boehm and Kubzansky also investigated well-being's association with cardiovascular-related and . They found that individuals with a sense of well-being engaged in healthier behaviors such as exercising, eating a balanced diet, and getting sufficient sleep. In addition, greater well-being was related to better biological function, such as lower blood pressure, healthier lipid (blood fat) profiles, and normal body weight.

If future research continues to indicate that higher levels of satisfaction, optimism, and happiness come before cardiovascular health, this has strong implications for the design of prevention and intervention strategies. "These findings suggest that an emphasis on bolstering psychological strengths rather than simply mitigating psychological deficits may improve cardiovascular health," Kuzbansky said.

Explore further: Satisfaction with the components of everyday life appears protective against heart disease

More information: "The Heart's Content: The Association between Positive Psychological Well-Being and Cardiovascular Health," Julia K. Boehm and Laura D. Kubzansky, Psychological Bulletin, online April 17, 2012

Related Stories

Satisfaction with the components of everyday life appears protective against heart disease

July 5, 2011
While depression and anxiety have long been recognised as risk factors for heart disease, there is less certainty over the beneficial effects of a 'positive' psychological state, Now, following a study of almost 8000 British ...

Optimism associated with lower risk of having stroke

July 21, 2011
A positive outlook on life might lower your risk of having a stroke, according to new research reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Diabetes associated with higher risk of cardiovascular problems in men

March 25, 2012
According to a new study by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), men with type 2 diabetes treated with insulin without a history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) were at higher risk for major cardiovascular events ...

Meeting greater number of recommended cardiovascular health factors linked with lower risk of death

March 17, 2012
In a study that included a nationally representative sample of nearly 45,000 adults, participants who met more of seven recommended cardiovascular health behaviors or factors (such as not smoking, having normal cholesterol ...

Recommended for you

How genes and environment interact to raise risk of congenital heart defects

October 19, 2017
Infants of mothers with diabetes have a three- to five-fold increased risk of congenital heart defects. Such developmental defects are likely caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. However, the molecular ...

Mouse studies shed light on how protein controls heart failure

October 18, 2017
A new study on two specially bred strains of mice has illuminated how abnormal addition of the chemical phosphate to a specific heart muscle protein may sabotage the way the protein behaves in a cell, and may damage the way ...

Newborns with trisomy 13 or 18 benefit from heart surgery, study finds

October 18, 2017
Heart surgery significantly decreases in-hospital mortality among infants with either of two genetic disorders that cause severe physical and intellectual disabilities, according to a new study by a researcher at the Stanford ...

Saving hearts after heart attacks: Overexpression of a gene enhances repair of dead muscle

October 17, 2017
University of Alabama at Birmingham biomedical engineers report a significant advance in efforts to repair a damaged heart after a heart attack, using grafted heart-muscle cells to create a repair patch. The key was overexpressing ...

Physically active white men at high risk for plaque buildup in arteries

October 17, 2017
White men who exercise at high levels are 86 percent more likely than people who exercise at low levels to experience a buildup of plaque in the heart arteries by middle age, a new study suggests.

High blood pressure linked to common heart valve disorder

October 17, 2017
For the first time, a strong link has been established between high blood pressure and the most common heart valve disorder in high-income countries, by new research from The George Institute for Global Health at the University ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.