Entries in Optimism (5)


Want Better Heart Health? Don't Worry, Be Happy

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Are you a glass half-empty or a glass half-full kind of person?  Researchers say a glass half-full perspective could do more for you than just make you smile.  Positive feelings may help protect cardiovascular health, a review of studies has found.

In the first and largest systemic review on this topic to date, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston found that positive psychological well-being appears to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events.  

In the review, which included more than 200 studies published in two major scientific databases, researchers found there are psychological assets, like optimism and positive emotion, that afford protection against cardiovascular disease.  It also appears that these factors slow the progression of the disease.

People who have a positive attitude also had a healthier lifestyle, which included exercise, a balanced diet and sufficient sleep, they found.

Additionally, greater well-being was related to better biological function, such as lower blood pressure, healthier lipid (blood fat) profiles and normal body weight.

Professor Laura Kubzansky, a lead author of the study, said, "These findings suggest that an emphasis on bolstering psychological strengths rather than simply mitigating psychological deficits may improve cardiovascular health."

The review's findings were published online in Psychological Bulletin.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Survey Reveals Most Optimistic US Metro Areas

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When it comes to the 190 metro areas in the U.S., do you know whose residents are the most optimistic about where they live?

If you picked Provo-Orem, Utah, you’d be correct. It ranked No. 1 with 76 percent of its residents feeling positively about the community.

Lafayette, La., and Raleigh-Cary, N.C., came in in second and third.

At the bottom of the list was Binghamton, N.Y., with 27.8 percent saying that it was getting better as a place to live.

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, more than 350,000 U.S. adults were interviewed from January to December 2011 for the report.

Top 10 (Percent of people who say their city or area is getting better as a place to live):
1. Provo-Orem, UT -- 76.0%
2. Lafayette, LA -- 75.8%
3. Raleigh-Cary, NC -- 74.9%
4. Huntsville, AL -- 74.3%
5. Greenville-Mauldin-Easley, SC -- 74.2%
6. Lubbock, TX -- 73.4%
7. Des Moines, IA -- 73.0%
8. Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, WA -- 72.9%
9. Fort Collins-Loveland, CO -- 70.9%
10. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX -- 70.3%

Bottom 10 (Percent of people who say their city or area is getting better as a place to live):
1. Binghamton, NY -- 27.8%
2. Flint, MI -- 34.1%
3. Rockford, IL -- 36.5%
4. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA -- 39.7%
5. Syracuse, NY -- 40.4%
6. Reno-Sparks, NV -- 40.5%
7. Las Vegas-Paradis, NV -- 40.7%
8. Utica-Rome, NY -- 40.8%
9. Scranton–Wilkes-Barre, PA -- 41.2%
10. Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH -- 41.3%

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Attitude Adjustment: Optimism Can Stave Off Stroke in Older Patients

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- Looking on the brighter side of life just may save your life, according to new research from the University of Michigan. In a study of 6,000 adults over 50 with no history of stroke, optimism was associated with significantly reduced risk of stroke, even when controlling for stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, heart disease, hypertension and body mass index.

"Past research has linked optimism with a range of health benefits, including cardiovascular outcome," says lead author Eric Kim, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Michigan. The study was published Thursday in the journal Stroke.

Kim and colleagues drew on data from the National Institutes of Health and Retirement Study, analyzing the relationship between how participants scored on an 15-point optimism scale and how likely they were to suffer a stroke during a two-year follow-up period. Optimism was gauged by how strongly patients agreed with statements like: "In uncertain times, I usually expect the best." They found that for each point increase in optimism rating, patients were nine percent less likely to suffer a stroke. The reduction in risk is on par with the reduction seen in those making dietary changes, such as increasing fruits and vegetables in the diet.

Previous studies have linked antagonistic and disagreeable personalities with increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and a lack of pessimism with better heart outcomes and optimism in decreased mortality in those who have had heart attacks.

Given the mounting evidence that ties an optimistic attitude to a better outcome, these results hardly came as a surprise to researchers. What remains a mystery is exactly how a sunny attitude affects heart health.

"We can't say for sure which thing is responsible for reduction in stroke, or as we have found in a recent study, a reduction in mortality among those with heart disease. It's pretty clear though, that something in optimism and related psychological characteristics is protective," says Dr. Redford Williams, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.

Kim notes that previous research found that those who are higher in optimism are more likely to take vitamins and are more likely to adhere to a health program in cardiac rehab following a heart attack or stroke.

"People who are optimistic are more likely to listen to other people's advice and plan for the future and think they can change the outcome," says Dr. Joseph Broderick, professor and chairman in the department of neurology at the University of Cincinnati, but this doesn't mean that all optimistic people will have a lower risk of stroke. Broderick cautions that saying point blank that optimism reduces stroke risk is a "huge generalization" that hides a lot of the other factors that play into who does and who doesn't suffer from stroke or other health problems.

"Some people think that ornery, cranky people survive things in spite of it all because of a will to endure on, but these people are certainly not optimistic. Optimism can also work against making healthier decisions -- you can be optimistic and feel like everything will work out, and so you don't change your behavior for the better," he says.

Dr. Wendy Wright, medical director of the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit at Emory University Hospital Midtown in Atlanta, agreed that more study is needed to parse out what's going on in the optimism-stroke relationship.

"It would be valuable to know...if the results will be different if people try to 'manipulate' their levels of optimism to improve stroke risk," she says, especially considering that optimism is a medicine with no negative side effects. "Encourage optimism for its health benefits. It has no downside. Optimism is free!"

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sleep Deprivation May Lead to 'Optimism Bias,' Study Suggests

BananaStock/Thinkstock(DURHAM, N.C.) -- People who suffer from sleep deprivation may possess the tendency to make overly optimistic decisions, thus making them more likely to take larger financial risks -- particularly when gambling, according to a recent Duke University study.

Researchers in the study, published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, asked 29 healthy adults to perform a series of gambling tasks after one normal night of sleep and again after staying up all night.

Next, the investigators took MRI scans of each volunteer and found that those who had been deprived of sleep had heightened activity in areas of the brain that assessed positive outcomes, while more rested individuals showed decreased activity in the areas that process negative outcomes.

"Using a risky decision-making task, we showed that sleep deprivation shifted most persons' bias from avoiding loss to pursuing gain," reported the Duke University researchers in North Carolina and Singapore.

The researchers concluded that lack of sleep "appears to create an optimism bias; for example, participants behave as if positive consequences are more likely (or more valuable) and as if negative consequences are less likely (or less harmful)."

That said, lead author Vinod Venkatraman, a Duke graduate student Psychology and Neuroscience, suggests that merely drinking caffeine or exercising are not enough to battle the effects of sleep deprivation.

"Late-night gamblers are fighting more than just the unfavorable odds of gambling machines; they are fighting a sleep-deprived brain's tendency to implicitly seek gains while discounting the impact of potential losses," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Optimism in Teens Could Guard Against Depression

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MELBOURNE, Australia) – New research suggests that being positive can help protect teens from depression and other behavioral issues.

Researchers at Murdoch Children's Centre for Adolescent Health in Melbourne, Australia say that teens who are positive are 50 percent less likely to suffer from depression.

''There has been remarkably little research into the effects of optimism on health in adolescents," the lead researcher told WebMD. "In older adults optimists are less likely to later experience a range of mental and physical health problems, from depression to cardiovascular disease. These relationships are well demonstrated. We have tended to assume the same would hold for adolescents but there have till now not been similar studies examining whether this was true or not."

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, followed more than 5,000 teens for three years. In addition to depression, the research found that teens who are optimistic were also less likely to abuse heavy substances or show antisocial behavior.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio