Always look on the bright side of life; it may help your cholesterol – that’s the new message coming from cardiologists.
Research, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, found middle-aged subjects with a sunnier outlook on life were more likely to have better levels of “good cholesterol”.
Optimists also have a tendency towards healthier body weight and display a more ‘prudent’ diet then their pessimistic counterparts, according to the researchers.
“It is one additional piece of evidence suggesting that our psychological health and physical health are intertwined, and that viewing the world optimistically may have some tangible benefits for our health,” said Julia Boehm, the study’s lead author and research fellow at Harvard School of Public Health.
Boehm and her colleagues had previously uncovered a link between optimists and lower levels of heart attack risk, a discovery that prompted similar research into cholesterol – a key risk factor for a heart attack.
The study surveyed almost 1000 people, between the ages of 40 and 70, through phone interview and in lab tests.
Those who scored higher on the optimism scale where also found to have more or the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – the more desirable cholesterol that scientists believe protects against heart disease. They also displayed lower levels of triglycerides – the fatty molecule culprits responsible for the hardening of arteries.
While there was no correlation between outlook and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) – or bad cholesterol, for every 5-point increase on the optimism scale HDL in the blood increased by 1 milligram per deciliter. Roughly translated the pattern would equal a three per cent overall reduction in heart disease risk.
When other lifestyle factors, like diet and alcohol consumption and body weight, where taken into account, the correlation between positive outlook and lower cholesterol levels weakened. This suggests that the optimist’s tendency towards healthier lifestyles and weight may ‘in part’ explain the differences.
Furthermore, those who were deemed depressed had an higher overall risk of heart attack and stroke. Previous studies have also linked outlook to other age-related diseases and debilitations.
So when it comes to our health it seems we must latch on to the affirmative.
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