A study of 5,000 adults, using the American Heart Association‘s criteria, has found that the most optimistic people had twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health as their pessimistic counterparts.
“Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts,” said lead author Rosalba Hernandez, a professor of social work at the University of Illinois. “This association remains significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health.”
During the study, the cardiovascular health of participants was assessed, using seven metrics: blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels, dietary intake, physical activity, and tobacco use. It was revealed that people who were the most optimistic were 50 and 76 percent more likely to have total health scores in the intermediate or ideal ranges, respectively.
The researchers found optimists had significantly better blood sugar and total cholesterol levels than their counterparts and they also were more physically active, had healthier body mass indexes, and were less likely to smoke.
“At the population level, even this moderate difference in cardiovascular health translates into a significant reduction in death rates,” Hernandez said. “This evidence, which is hypothesized to occur through a biobehavioral mechanism, suggests that prevention strategies that target modification of psychological well-being — e.g., optimism — may be a potential avenue for AHA to reach its goal of improving Americans’ cardiovascular health by 20 percent before 2020.”
The sample for the current study, which is believed to be the first study to examine the association of optimism and cardiovascular health in a large, ethnically and racially diverse population, was 38 percent white, 28 percent African-American, 22 percent Hispanic/Latino and 12 percent Chinese.
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