Cheer Up for Heart Health?

Cheer up! A new study finds that optimism is linked to better heart health. Based on this, the lead investigator, Rosalba Hernandez, is telling us:

Optimism may be a potential avenue for AHA to reach its goal of improving Americans’ cardiovascular health.

Call us pessimistic, but we’re not sure this will work.

The study itself was a cross-sectional analysis of 5,134 people in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). The association between optimism and better cardiovascular health was strong. The most optimistic people in the study were almost twice as likely to have ideal cardiovascular health as people in the least optimistic group.

We have two reasons for caution. First, it’s not at all clear that the relationship between optimism and heart health is cause and effect. It could be just the reverse. Or it could be that something else altogether is causing both optimism and heart health.

Second, even if optimism causes better heart health, it is not at all clear that people can just make up their minds or be nudged to “look on the sunny side.” A considerable body of research shows that optimism is a personality trait that doesn’t change much over time.

So for now, we’re more optimistic about real evidence-based strategies for heart health. Enjoying physical activity, healthy diet, and plenty of sleep would be at the top of the list.

Click here to read more from Science Daily, here to read the study, and here to read more about other research on optimism.

Optimism, photograph © kayugee / flickr

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