But a patient's disposition is a double-edged sword, research suggests. Dr. Robert Allan, a clinical assistant professor of psychology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College who specializes in patients with psychological conditions after cardiac events, said that for pessimistic patients, the opposite can hold true.
"The big three psychosocial risk factors are depression, social isolation, and anger which are linked with cardiovascular disease," Allan said. "It's likely that putting a positive spin on the psyche will cause a benefit for patients." Indeed, many previous studies have demonstrated an increased risk in cardiovascular events with negative attitudes such as depression or anger.
As for Quackenbush, her cardiologist referred her Allan, who arranged for her to join a social support group. She said that being a part of this group helped her change her negative feelings, including anxiety, into positive approaches in handling stress that have helped with her course of disease.
Today, Quackenbush said, she is thankful for her past brush with heart trouble.
"It was a wakeup call," she said. "It was a wakeup call that made me change my lifestyle."