Do Optimistic People Have Healthier Hearts and Other Health Indicators?

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A new study published in Health Behavior and Policy Review concluded that the most optimistic people in a study of 5,000 subjects had twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health than their pessimistic counterparts and was significant even after controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and poor mental health. Indicators used to assess cardiovascular health included blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels, dietary intake, physical activity and tobacco use. These are the same indexes used by the American Heart Association to define heart health. . For each item a score of 0, 1 or 2 points was allocated with   each subject representing poor, intermediate and ideal scores. The scores for the seven indexes were totaled for a score of 0 to 14 where the highest total score indicated better health.

Subjects ranging from 45 to 84 years of age with a racial diversity of 38 percent white, 28 percent African-American,. 22 percent Hispanic/Latino, and 12 percent Chinese also completed surveys that assessed their mental health, level of optimism, and physical health based upon self report medical diagnoses of arthritis, liver and kidney disease. Subjects were followed for 11 years and data was collected every 18 months to 2 years.  Scores on optimism of individuals increase with their total health scores and those who were most optimistic were 50 to 76 percent more likely to have total health scores in the intermediate and ideal range respectively. In addition, when sociodemographi8c characteristics such as age, race, ethnicity, income, and education status were factored in the association between optimism and cardiovascular health were more pronounced, Those who were most optimistic were twice as likely to have ideal cardiovascular health, and 55 percent more likely to have a total health score in the intermediate range. In addition, those who were the most optimistic had better blood sugar and total cholesterol levels, were more physically active, had healthier body mass indexes, and were less likely to smoke.

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