Positive Thinking Helps Heart Patients
September 11, 2013

Power Of Positive Attitude May Help Heart Patients Stay Healthy

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Heart disease patients who manage to maintain a positive attitude tend to exercise more frequently and live longer, according to a new report from the American Heart Association.

As part of the study, researchers sent questionnaires to assess the overall moods of 600 patients with ischemic heart disease in a Dutch hospital. Five years later, they found that those patients with the most positive outlooks tended to work out more and were 42 percent less likely to die for any reason during the follow-up period.

The research, which appears in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, also reported that the total fatality rate among these patients was less than 10 percent, but among those with less positive attitudes, 16.5 percent passed away. This second group  included 50 people. Furthermore, the study authors reported that positive mood and exercise reduced the risk of heart-related hospitalizations.

“We should focus not only on increasing positive attitude in cardiac rehabilitation, but also make sure that patients perform exercise on a regular basis, as exercise is associated with both increased levels of optimism and better health,” explained Dr. Susanne S. Pedersen, one of the study authors and a professor of cardiac psychology at Tilburg University.

Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, is caused when arteries become narrow and prevent adequate amounts of blood and oxygen from reaching the heart. Previous research has linked optimism and good health in heart patients, though Dr. Pedersen’s team also found that the differences in death rates among both positive and negative individuals were reduced when both groups exercised regularly.

The professor said that there was a two-way, chicken-and-egg relationship between mood and exercise, meaning that each factor influences the other, and it's not entirely clear which one starts the process.

While the study participants were largely Caucasian and three-fourths were male, Dr. Pedersen said that their findings are likely applicable to a wider range of cardiac patients, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity.

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told Fox News that there could be several possible reasons for the link between mood and health. Having a positive outlook could reduce levels of stress hormones and inflammatory markers, she said, as well as prevent people from engaging in unhealthy, anxiety-relieving behaviors such as overeating and smoking.