18/04/2012 10:22 BST

Having A Positive Outlook On Life ‘Wards Off Heart Disease'

Looking on the bright side of life not only boosts your mood – it could also help you live longer, claims a recent study.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, discovered that people who have a sunny disposition are less likely to have a heart attack or suffer from a stroke.

Researchers reviewed over 200 research studies on psychological wellbeing and cardiovascular health. Each review focused on data from questionnaires and assessments, which asked participants about their characteristics and outlook on life.

While each of the 200 reviews was slightly different, they all focused on participants’ responses to a range of ‘pleasurable’ feelings - from enthusiasm and positivity, to optimism and satisfaction.

Researchers then compared these findings to participants’ heart health and discovered that psychological assets, like positive thinking and optimism, acts as a protector against cardiovascular disease.

"These findings suggest that an emphasis on bolstering psychological strengths rather than simply mitigating psychological deficits may improve cardiovascular health,” explains professor and lead study author, Laura Kubzansky.

The study also found that these ‘happy’ factors also slowed the progression of heart disease in patients who had already developed the condition and that optimistic people generally live healthier lives.

So why does positive thinking help us live longer?

“Individuals with high levels of positive psychological wellbeing may have more opportunities for processes that promote rest, restoration, and the capacity to regenerate,” says professor Kubzansky.

"Positive psychological wellbeing may influence cardiovascular health not only by buffering the effects of stress or reducing deteriorative behaviours and biology but also by directly enhancing behavioural and biological functioning.”

These findings follow a separate study by the British Heart Foundation which found that poor mental health (like depression and anxiety), increases the risk of heart disease.

Maureen Talbot, a senior cardiac nurse from the British Heart Foundation, said in a statement: “The association between heart disease and mental health is very complex and still not fully understood.

“Although this study didn’t look at the effects of stress, it does confirm what we already know which is that psychological wellbeing is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, just like staying active and eating healthily.

“It also highlights the need for healthcare professionals to provide a holistic approach to care, taking into account the state of someone’s mental health and monitoring its effect on their physical health.”

Leading life coach Sophia Davis supports the optimistic way of life, telling HuffPost Lifestyle: "Being optimistic and having a positive mindset has been scientifically proven to affect the body and the way it functions.

"Even if you don't believe in the optimistic thoughts you are thinking, the body will still respond in a healthy way. My favourite saying is 'nothing negative ever comes from being positive.'"

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