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Stay happy and cut the risk of fatal heart attack

Having a positive attitude to life may reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, a major review of research has found.

People who are able to enjoy simple pleasures, have a sunny disposition and positive outlook on life are less likely to have heart attacks and strokes, it has been found.

It was known that stress and depression increase the chances of being unwell and is harmful for the heart but less was known about how positive emotions affect health.

In the first review of its kind, a team at Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, America, examined 200 separate research studies which looked as psychological wellbeing and cardiovascular health.

Lead author Julia Boehm said: "The absence of the negative is not the same thing as the presence of the positive. We found that factors such as optimism, life satisfaction, and happiness are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease regardless of such factors as a person's age, socioeconomic status, smoking status, or body weight.

"For example, the most optimistic individuals had an approximately 50pc reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers."

Each of the 200 research papers measured the extent to which individuals consider themselves a happy or unhappy person, satisfaction with their life and the extent to which they experience pleasurable feelings.

Some also looked at optimism and hope, the extent to which individuals have expectancies for positive outcomes in the future and enthusiasm for life.


Senior author Laura Kubzansky, associate professor at Harvard, said there are psychological assets, like optimism and positive emotion, that afford protection against cardiovascular disease.

These factors protected people against heart attacks and strokes and also slowed the progression of heart disease and other diseases in patients who had already developed them, it was found.

The research showed that people with a positive outlook and who were optimistic about the future were more likely to exercise, eat a good balanced diet, and get enough sleep.