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Aug 18, 2011

Could Optimism Decrease Risk for Stroke?

Study shows that having a positive outlook on life can reduce cardiovascular risk.

There are many ways that adults can reduce risk for stroke, such as improving diet, increasing physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight. Time after time, lifestyle changes like these have been shown to significantly reduce risk for stroke and improve cardiovascular health. And based on recent findings, optimism may be added to this list, as having a positive attitude may significantly decrease risk for stroke.

In a recent study from the University of Michigan, researchers found that the more optimistic adults were, the lower their risk for stroke. This study involved over 6,000 men and women over the age of 50, with no history of stroke. Researchers followed participants for two years, assessing their optimism on a 16-point scale. After adjusting for other contributing factors, they found that each unit increase in optimism score reduced risk for stroke by 9%. Experts say that this degree of risk reduction associated with optimism is just as strong as positive lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet.

This is not the first study to suggest that having a positive outlook on life can improve cardiovascular health. Many studies, such as this one, have shown that a positive mental state, such as being optimistic or feeling a sense of life satisfaction, can greatly reduce risk for heart disease, stroke and heart attack. Why? Having a positive outlook on life may help reduce blood pressure or prevent significant spikes in blood pressure from stress. It may also encourage making healthier lifestyle choices, such as eating healthy and being physically active. Optimism may also promote better health, just as depression can negatively affect it. And while the exact reason for optimism reducing stroke risk remains a mystery, studies confirm that positivity just may help save your life.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How can adults improve their optimism?
  • Although research is needed to determine effective interventions to promote optimism, addressing mental health may be just as important as addressing physical health. By taking steps to reduce stress and improve ones outlook on life, risk for heart disease and stroke can be decreased.
  • Other than being optimistic, how can adults decrease risk for stroke?

  • Adults can reduce risk for stroke by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a heart healthy diet and staying physically active. Any additional risk factors, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, should be properly addressed and controlled through lifestyle changes and working with your healthcare provider.

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