Studies, reports, analyses and academic papers abound during any given week in healthcare circles. The content can seem arcane and maybe almost impenetrable, but other times these documents could be the research equivalent of a riveting bestseller.
One study last week certainly caught the attention of the mainstream press, most likely because of its universal appeal. This one could really be taken to heart … quite literally. Published online April 17 in the Psychological Bulletin, the research examined how having an optimistic outlook on life might protect one's cardiovascular health. And the findings offer good news.
We all know the scourge of cardiovascular disease. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the U.S., with cerebrovascular diseases No. 4 on the list of the Top 10 killers. And the American Heart Association says that more than 2,200 people die of cardiovascular disease every day, or about one death every 39 seconds.
The new study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that one way to avoid being counted among those statistics is to exhibit positive psychological attributes. In other words, try to be happy! In a review of more than 200 studies published in two major databases, researchers determined that certain “psychological assets” such as optimism and positive emotion offer increased protection against cardiovascular disease. And these factors also appear to slow the progression of disease.