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Jul 22, 2011

Life Satisfaction Lowers Heart Disease Risk

Satisfaction in your job, family, sex life and self could help protect against heart disease.

It is well documented that stress and depression can increase risk for cardiovascular disease. Although they are mental conditions, stress and depression can take a toll on the body, causing high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, and weakened immune systems, which can increase risk for heart disease and cardiac events. That’s why doctors recommend that patients with stress and/or depression address these issues to improve their mental and overall health.

But if stress and depression can increase risk for heart disease, could the reverse be true? That a lack of stress and a sense of life satisfaction could actually help protect against heart disease? A recent study published in European Heart Journal found that this may actually be true. Researchers followed nearly 8,000 adults as part of the Whitehall II cohort over the course of five years, tracking their mental and physical health. Data from this study showed that satisfied adults had significantly lower risk for heart disease than those lacking satisfaction in various areas of life, such as job and family. Perhaps most interesting, satisfaction in four out of seven life domains affected risk for heart disease: job, family, sex life and self. Satisfaction in love relationships, leisure activities and standard of living did not seem to impact their cardiovascular risk.

Based on study findings, improving life satisfaction is yet another way that adults can help prevent heart disease — the number one killer of men and women in the United States. Although reducing stress and treating depression is important to reducing risk for heart disease, increasing the sense of happiness in one’s life may be equally as important, particularly in the areas of career, family, sex life and self-confidence. 

Questions for You to Consider

  • How can I help reduce stress levels?

  • There are many methods for reducing stress, including exercise, meditation and deep breathing. Stress can affect adults in different ways, so it is important to try different stress reduction approaches in order to find one that works best for you.

  • How can I help improve life satisfaction?

  • Based on study findings, it is important to address satisfaction in career, family, sex life and one’s self-confidence. Although research is needed regarding effective methods to improve life satisfaction, try to make small changes to improve areas in your life that you feel least satisfied in.

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