Study: Optimists twice as likely as pessimists to have healthy hearts

People who look at a glass of water and see it as half-full are two times more likely than their ‘glass-half-empty’ counterparts to be in good cardiovascular health, according to findings recently published in the journal Health Behavior and Policy Review.

“Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts,” said the study’s lead author Rosalba Hernandez, a professor of social work at the University of Illinois, in a university news report. “This association remains significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health.”

Between 2002 and 2004, Hernandez and fellow researchers from Northwestern University, Chapman University, Harvard University and Drexel University, examined the relationship between optimism and cardiovascular health in more than 5,100 adults aged 52 to 84.

Researchers looked at participants’ physical activity, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, body mass index, dietary intake, blood pressure and tobacco use, the same seven factors used by the American Heart Association (AHA) to determine good heart health.

For each factor, participants were given a rating of 0 (poor), 1 (intermediate) or 2 (ideal). Those ratings were added up to come to a total cardio health score. The higher the score, the better the heart health of the individual.

Participants were also asked to complete surveys on mental health, optimism and physical health, including informing researchers on any existing medical conditions like arthritis, liver and kidney disease.

The study’s most optimistic individuals were 50 percent more likely to have an intermediate total health score and 76 percent more likely to have an ideal score, reported ScienceDaily.

The study sample was 38 percent white, 28 percent African-American, 22 percent Hispanic/Latino and 12 percent Chinese. These individuals form part of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), a broader, ongoing examination of asymptomatic cardiovascular disease that includes 6,000 people throughout six regions in the United States.

In July 2014, another MESA study found an association between middle-aged and older adults who reported high levels of hostility and feelings of hopelessness and an increased risk of stroke.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health sponsors MESA.