It can be difficult to stay optimistic when you’re undergoing treatment for a cardiovascular event. Many patients feel scared when faced with their own mortality, not to mention the aches and pains their bodies endure are physically and emotionally exhausting. However, new research suggests that a “glass half full” attitude could do more than just make you smile—it could improve your chance of survival.
The study, published in this past September’s issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, tracked 600 patients in Denmark over a period of five years. All of the patients had ischemic heart disease (lack of blood flow to the heart due to narrowed arteries). Patients were asked to self-report their own happiness through mood scores ranging from 0-40 and were then categorized by how they fell on the scale. At the conclusion of the five year study, patients who scored on the higher end of the scale (indicating a positive outlook) had a 42% decreased chance of dying.
The health benefits of being an optimist have long been suspected but, in this study’s case, it seems that exercise might be providing the hidden link. Though it’s not clear whether a positive outlook made patients more likely to exercise or if exercise helped yield a better attitude, it is pretty clear that (doctor-approved!) exercise improves outcomes for heart patients.
Regardless of whether a exercise is causing better attitudes or better attitudes are leading to more exercise motivation, we at least know with certainty that exercise is good for your heart. And while it’s difficult to draw final conclusions about the effects of thinking positively on heart patients’ recoveries, one thing’s for sure: it certainly can’t hurt. So though we can’t make any promises as to how your attitude will help your outcome, smiling and thinking positive thoughts are never bad ideas.