Optimism Linked to Improved Survival With Coronary Artery Disease

Research suggests a positive outlook is good for the heart.

ByABC News
February 28, 2011, 3:03 PM

March 1, 2011— -- Can a smile a day keep your heart feeling okay? Some researchers say it might.

A new study released Monday adds to growing evidence that having a positive attitude can help you live longer.

Researchers looked at nearly 3,000 patients who underwent hospital treatment for heart disease and found that those who had the highest expectations of a full recovery had a higher chance of living longer than those who were pessimistic about their chance of recovery.

"Patients differ widely in terms of their psychological reactions to major illnesses such as coronary heart disease," Barefoot and colleagues wrote in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

And many experts say there's good reason to believe that your attitude can shape your outcome.

Dr. Steven E. Nissen, department chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved in the study, said patients "with a 'positive' attitude may simply be healthier than patients with a negative attitude. In fact, their 'attitude' may reflect their health status."

Study researchers also noted that those who are generally optimistic about their health are more likely to follow treatment recommendations.

"One of those factors might [also] be that cardiovascular providers give better care to patients with a positive outlook-perhaps spending more time with them or being more conscientious," Dr. James Kirkpatrick, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who was not involved in the study.

On the other hand, those who are pessimistic about their health may experience stress that could trigger additional heart problems, researchers said.

The nearly 3,000 patients enrolled were followed for 15 years. One year after their hospital stay, they were asked to fill out a survey that would help researchers learn more about their attitude. The group of patients with a better perspective on their health had a lived nearly 20 percent longer than those who seemed pessimistic. Optimistic patients also lived a more active lifestyle than the pessimists.