Optimism, feeling happy helps keeps your heart healthy and strong

DALLAS, Texas — The expression “healthy mind, healthy body” may have never been as relevant as it is in a new study on heart health. Researchers with the American Heart Association say positive mental health and generally staying optimistic about life can reduce a person’s chances of developing heart disease.

“A person’s mind, heart and body are all interconnected and interdependent in what can be termed ‘the mind-heart-body-connection,’” says Glenn N. Levine, M.D., FAHA, from Baylor College of Medicine and the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in a media release. “Research has clearly demonstrated that negative psychological factors, personality traits and mental health disorders can negatively impact cardiovascular health. On the other hand, studies have found positive psychological attributes are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.”

Poor mental health can be fatal

Just like staying positivity can improve lifespans, researchers find negative psychological health can be as equally bad for your health. Mental health conditions like depression, stress, anxiety, and anger can all lead to developing heart disease risks, according to researchers.

The study finds patients dealing with these psychological problems generally have a higher risk of heart rate and rhythm abnormalities, digestive issues, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, and less blood flow to the heart.

These mental conditions also have a link to behaviors which can put patients at greater risk for a heart attack or stroke. Study authors find patients dealing with negative psychological health tend to be smokers, physically inactive, overweight, or don’t take their medications.

Researchers recommend that regular mental health screenings be part of the standard checkup for cardiovascular disease. Study authors note that psychological therapy and similar programs can positively impact cardiovascular health.

Along with unhealthy habits and a poor mental state, the study finds daily stressors and traumatic events can also lead to heart disease or stroke. Patients who self-report having both work-related stress and high stress in general have a 40-percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

“Most studies of psychological health are observational, with many involving self-reporting from patients, which presents challenges to establishing specific cause and effect relationships,” Levine explains. “However, a preponderance of such studies is highly suggestive and allows one to make reasonable conclusions about an association between negative psychological health and cardiovascular risk.”

Being happy can save your life

When you literally look on the bright side of things however, researchers find a host of health benefits.

“The data is consistent, suggesting that positive psychological traits play a part in better cardiovascular health,” Levine adds.

Study authors find people with a positive mental state are more likely to enjoy lower blood pressure, better glucose control, less inflammation, and lower cholesterol. These people are also more likely to quit smoking, become more active, and observe a healthy diet.

Positive mental health isn’t just about how you think though. Researchers say people with better mental health usually have more positive social relationships and a bigger support network.

“Wellness is more than simply the absence of disease. It is an active process directed toward a healthier, happier and more fulfilling life, and we must strive to reduce negative aspects of psychological health and promote an overall positive and healthy state of being. In patients with or at risk for heart disease, health care professionals need to address the mental wellness of the patient in tandem with the physical conditions affecting the body, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, chest pain, etc,” Baylor’s master clinician and professor of medicine concludes.

The study appears in the journal Circulation.

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