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Jan 09, 2015 06:09 PM EST

Optimistic People May Have Healthier Hearts

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People who are hopeful and confident about the future have significantly better cardiovascular health, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that individuals who have the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being ideal cardiovascular health compared to their pessimistic counterparts.

"This association remains significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health," Rosalba Hernandez, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers collected and analyzed data from more than 5,100 adults to examine associations between optimism and heart health.   Participants' cardiovascular health was assessed using seven metrics: blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels, dietary intake, physical activity and tobacco use - the same metrics used by the American Heart Association to define heart health and being targeted by the AHA in its Life's Simple 7 public awareness campaign.

Researchers found that people who were the 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, the researchers found.

Optimists had significantly better blood sugar and total cholesterol levels than their counterparts. 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 findings are detailed in the January/February 2015 issue of Health Behavior and Policy Review.

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