A new study found people with a pessimistic attitude were at a 22 per cent higher risk of heart disease than those with a positive outlook.
According to researchers, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that chronic emotional stress, quick bouts of anger and frequent display of hostility can trigger heart attacks, and a variety of other medical conditions.
Dr Karina Davidson, director of the Centre for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Centre, and the lead author of the study suggests,
“We desperately need rigorous clinical trials in this area. If the trials support our findings, then these results will be incredibly important in describing specifically what clinicians and patients could do to improve health.”
Link between happiness and heart disease explored
In an effort to explore the link between positive emotions and heart disease the researchers tracked 1,739 healthy adults who were part of the 1995 Nova Scotia Health Survey.
A clinical appraisal evaluated the participants’ risk of heart disease with self-reported symptoms of depression, hostility, anxiety along with positive emotions such as joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm and contentment.
Findings of the study
An analysis revealed that people with a pessimistic attitude were at a 22 per cent higher risk of heart disease than those with a positive outlook.
“Participants with no positive affect were at a 22 percent higher risk of … heart attack or angina … than those with a little positive affect, who were themselves at 22 percent higher risk than those with moderate positive affect.”
She further added,
“We also found that if someone who was usually positive had some depressive symptoms at the time of the survey, this did not affect their overall lower risk of heart disease.”
Some plausible explanations
Some plausible explanations offered by the researchers were that happy people tend to have longer periods of rest and are inclined to recover from depression and injury quickly.
“Essentially, spending some few minutes each day truly relaxed and enjoying yourself is certainly good for your mental health, and may improve your physical health as well,” said Dr Karina Davidson.
Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said,
“This research suggested that those who naturally had a ‘glass half-full’ mood seemed to be most protected from disease. But we’re not all like that, and we know that improving your mood isn’t always easy – so we don’t know if it’s possible to change our natural levels of positivity.
We would of course recommend that people take time to indulge in healthy activities that can lift their mood, but trying to keep established risk factors under control remains really important.”
The study appears in the European Heart Journal.
Article courtesy of The money.times.com
by Neka Sehgal – February 18, 2010