Being Upbeat May Ward Off Serious Cardiac Problems
A cheerful attitude may be beneficial even for those with a family history of heart disease
People with cheerful temperaments are significantly less likely to suffer a coronary event such as a heart attack or sudden cardiac death, new Johns Hopkins research suggests.
Previous research has shown that depressed and anxious people are more likely to have heart attacks and to die from them than those whose dispositions are sunnier. But the Johns Hopkins researchers say their study shows that a general sense of well-being -- feeling cheerful, relaxed, energetic and satisfied with life -- actually reduces the chances of a heart attack.
"If you are by nature a cheerful person and look on the bright side of things, you are more likely to be protected from cardiac events," says study leader Lisa R. Yanek, M.P.H., an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "A happier temperament has an actual effect on disease and you may be healthier as a result."
Yanek cautioned that cheerful personalities are likely part of the temperament we are born with, not something we can easily change. While some have suggested it's possible that people lucky enough to have such a trait are also more likely to take better care of themselves and have more energy to do so, Yanek says her research shows that people with higher levels of well-being still had many risk factors for coronary disease but had fewer serious heart events.
She emphasized that the mechanisms behind the protective effect of positive well-being remain unclear.
She also noted that her research offers insights into the interactions between mind and body, and could yield clues to those mechanisms in the future.
The above story is based on the July 9, 2013 news release by Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The research has been published online 01 July 2013:
Yanek LR, Kral BG, Moy TF, Vaidya D, Lazo M, Becker LC, Becker DM. Effect of Positive Well-Being on Incidence of Symptomatic Coronary Artery Disease. American Journal of Cardiology, 2013. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2013.05.055.
THIS STUDY involved 1,483 generally healthy adults, most in their mid-40s, who had an above-average risk for heart problems because they had a sibling who developed coronary artery disease before age 60. In about a 12-year span, 208 of the participants had a heart attack, experienced heart-related chest pain (angina) or needed stents or bypass surgery.
People who were positive and felt good about their lives, based on a standardized assessment of mood and attitude done at the start of the study, were 33% less likely to have had a heart problem than those who were not as upbeat. Overall, as feelings of well-being improved, risk for heart problems fell. People whose family history put them at the greatest risk for heart problems realized the most benefit from being cheerful and optimistic, reducing their risk by 50%.