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A Woman’s Heart, Can a Positive Attitude Improve Your Heart Health?

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There is a proverb that says “a merry heart does good like a medicine.” While being happy certainly improves ones disposition (and that of those around you!), can your outlook on life, particularly a positive outlook, actually impact and improve your heart health?

According to a first-of-a-kind research study conducted at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, the answer is a resounding yes! The Columbia University study is unique compared to other studies which focus on factors that impact heart health because this study focused solely on how a having a positive outlook, as opposed to mood, depression or other more negative emotions, may impact your heart health.

During the course of the 10-year study, the Columbia University researchers followed a group of 1,739 participants. A large number of participants were located in the Nova Scotia area of Canada. Only persons without a known history of heart disease were accepted into the study. Periodically throughout the course of the study, participants were interviewed by nurses regarding various aspects about their day to day lives such as stress, work, family, problems and of course, how happy or joyful they felt that they were. Interviews were videotaped and the responses later evaluated by a trained staff of researchers who scored the responses on a happiness scale of one to five that measured the amount of “positive affect” in the life of each participant. Positive affect is the term used to describe the positive emotions – joy, happiness, enjoyment, satisfaction – we experience in our lives. Participants who scored a five were viewed as possessing the greatest amount of positive affect or happiness and positive outlook in their lives. A score of one indicated very little or no positive affect exhibited.

The researchers found that those participants who had the highest levels of positive affect over the course of the study had a significantly lower risk of developing heart disease. A positive outlook lowered the risk of heart disease by a whopping 22 percent!

Add a Comment6 Comments


@partnersincare.... You're right. If we have a great foundation early on, it it certainly much easier to have a positive outlook later in life. But, I don't personally think we're wholly defined by our childhood experiences. I know some people who suffered through horrific childhoods and some are among the most dynamic, joyful individuals you'll find - others, not so much. The difference? Some made a choice not to live in the shadow of the past but move forward. Those found or rather created a new foundation and live joyful lives. The others continue to live in the past and are miserable. It's so sad and such a waste.

I see you're new to Empowher - WELCOME! I hope you come back and post often. It's the dialogues that make the site the most interesting - and sometimes helpful - of all! Kind regards, Mary

September 28, 2011 - 5:52am

I think family values and foundation has a big contribution as we grow or how we deal with our daily life. I mean how we are all brought up with our parents has a lot to do on who we become.

September 26, 2011 - 2:57pm

Hi Willalee,
It sounds like your mother gave you a great example in life. In our family, we had two grandmothers who each took a very different view on the problems of life - one had a half full cup attitude and the other a half empty cup attitude. The difference in their lives, especially as they aged, was very marked. It was a great example to all of us to choose the joy in life where ever you find it. It sounds like your mother knew and understood the simple joys to be found in living. :-)
Thanks so much for sharing! Mary

August 9, 2011 - 9:47pm

I also feel it must be genetics as I grew up with a mother looking at life with the glass half full,as they say.I find my mother was a great inspiration to me and made me realize life was to short to dwell on things that were out of your control.We grew up poor not having much at all so we found out fast growing up how to be thankful for everything.Happiness to us was seeing a good meal come our way and my mother playing her records that she won on a radio station.

July 29, 2011 - 7:47pm

Haralee... You are exactly right! I think for many of us that we live in work in such a harsh or fast-paced environment that there is literally no time to stop and enjoy life itself. Sometimes, even taking a fifteen minute break to simply walk outside and listen to the birds and feel the breeze or reading a book of your choice, playing the piano, etc. can go a long way to restoring the spirit and improving your attitude. As you said, it's a win-win all the way around.

March 10, 2010 - 8:23am

I think the key point made is for people to try to add into their lives a little something that brings them happiness. For some people who are not happy,they really have to work at being happy. If these people can find 15-20 minutes a day at something that makes them happy and also helps them with their health, it would be great. A win-win situation.

March 8, 2010 - 4:42pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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