Positive Outlook May Help Heart Disease Patients

Positive Outlook May Help Heart Disease Patients

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 16, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Heart disease patients with a sunny disposition are more likely to exercise, stick with their medications and take other steps to ward off further heart trouble, a new study suggests.

Researchers said the findings add to a large body of evidence linking a positive approach to better heart health.

Specifically, the results support the theory that healthier habits are a key reason that positive people tend to have less heart trouble.

It all makes sense, according to James Maddux, a senior scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

“Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about this complex process called self-motivation,” said Maddux, who was not involved in the study.

When faced with a challenge — a diagnosis of heart disease, for example — people who are generally positive will become “task-oriented,” Maddux explained. “They’ll think, ‘OK, what do I need to do to address this challenge?’ ” he said.

In contrast, people who tend to be more negative often feel there is little they can do about life’s challenges — including a diagnosis of heart disease, Maddux suggested.

“Your disposition affects your ability to set goals and to put those plans in motion,” Maddux said.

The good news, he added, is that even a lifelong pessimist can learn to change his or her outlook.

Lead researcher Nancy Sin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Healthy Aging at Pennsylvania State University, agreed. “Is it possible to change? I think so,” she said.

Sin pointed out that her team’s findings do not prove that heart disease patients’ positive outlook directly led to healthier habits. In fact, it’s likely a two-way street, she said: Physical activity, for example, typically makes people feel better mentally and emotionally, as well.

So people who tend to land on the pessimistic side might start with small steps that could do their hearts and minds good, Sin suggested.

“Take a walk every day,” she said. “Have a conversation with a good friend. Take a moment just to think about what you’re grateful for in your life.”

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