Optimists Have Lower Risk of Heart Failure, So Turn that Frown Upside Down
Pessimists who are always seeing the glass as "half empty" seem chronically stressed and unhappy. For this reason, you might think that optimists should be healthier, because stress is bad for you. Recent research confirms at least one aspect of this: even after controlling for other factors, optimistis showed a lower risk for heart failure.
Researchers from the University of Michigan, in collaboration with researchers at Harvard, tracked over 6,000 older patients to determine whether their attitudes correlated with who developed heart failure. According to Medical News Today:
All participants were followed for 4 years, and researchers took into account certain factors that could impact subjects' heart failure risk, such as health behaviors, chronic illnesses, and biological and demographic factors. The investigators found that individuals who had higher levels of optimism had a 73% lower risk of heart failure over the study period, compared with those who were pessimistic.
Previous research also indicated that a positive attitude may improve the outcomes of other heart disease patients. However, in that case, it may have been because the positive individuals were more likely to exercise. This suggests that another variable may be at work here: "locus of control," or the extent to which a person thinks she can control her destiny. An internal locus of control is healthy, because it motivates you to take charge of your life — you think your actions will generally be effective. On the other hand, an external locus of control just makes you feel victimized and helpless.
What does this mean for you? Try following these tips for becoming a more optimistic person — even if it doesn't save your heart in the end, at least you will have had a happier life anyways. And whether you are able to feel optimistic or not, act as if you have control over your life — because you do. Day-to-day choices impacting your health are all yours to make, so make good ones: eat healthy, and get married (it's apparently good for your heart).