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Holiday Cheer Tips for Heart Health

December 16, 2009

Researchers say optimistic people are less likely to have heart attacks, according to an article on WebMD. So next time you find yourself stuck in holiday traffic, try to smile and sing a carol favorite song, or do deep breathing exercises instead of honking your horn. It could save your life.

Stress can lead to heart attacks and poor hearth healthResearchers found that people who have a positive attitude during stressful events are 22% less likely to have a fatal or nonfatal heart attack than those who have negative attitudes.

"This is the first set of studies [looking at a large population] that shows that having positive feelings and positive attitudes during negative events may prevent first heart attacks," says researcher Karina Davidson, PhD, of Columbia University in New York.

"If you're in an uncomfortable situation, do something to distract yourself and take your mind off the problem," she tells WebMD.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA).

The findings add to growing evidence that our psychological well-being can affect our heart health, says past AHA president Sidney Smith, MD, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

In a second study, the same researchers asked 2,380 adults without heart disease two questions designed to determine whether they had optimistic personalities.

"The questions were: Are you optimistic about your future? And do you rarely expect things to go your way?" Davidson says.

Over the next 10 years, 274 of the participants suffered a heart attack. Participants who were considered optimistic based on their answers to the two questions were 12% less likely to have a heart attack than those who were not optimistic, she says.

When telling patients about the findings, Davidson likes to relate her own story. "When I moved to New York, my [mentor] told me, you'll be spending half your life in a taxi, so you can either have a stroke or enjoy the time," she says.