Heart disease is the leading killer in this country so it's not surprising that many of us at midlife focus on what we can do to stave it off. That generally means regular exercise, watching our weight and keeping our blood pressure under control. But now a new study by Harvard researchers suggests another approach: staying happy.
The researchers wanted to look at the flip side of most heart studies, which generally focus on risk factors such as high blood pressure or a sedentary lifestyle. They looked at more than 200 studies published in the last 15 years, trying to find a connection between specific behaviors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol or diet.
They found that there was a correlation between heart health and an optimistic, positive outlook. The most optimistic people had half the heart attack risk of the least optimistic,
In an article published online in Psychological Bulletin, the researchers say that people who are happy and optimistic are more likely to exercise, eat well and get enough sleep - all of which reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
This is an intriguing study because it shows a clear connection because psychological traits and heart health. But it's important to note that it's probably not attitude along that protects your heart but rather how your attitude affects the way you take care of yourself and ultimately your heart health. In other words, don't worry, be happy and go to the gym.