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Meaningful Lives Boost Heart Health

Update Date: Mar 06, 2015 05:57 PM EST

A meaningful life protects the aging heart, according to a new study.

Researchers found that people who have a high sense of purpose are significantly less likely to suffer heart disease and stroke.

Researchers defined a meaningful life as feeling like life is worth living and has a sense of meaning and direction.

After examining data from more than 137,000 people, researchers from Mount Sinai St. Luke's and Mount Sinai Roosevelt linked having a high sense of purpose to a 23 percent reduction in death from all causes and a 19 percent reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, or the need for coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) or a cardiac stenting procedure.

"Developing and refining your sense of purpose could protect your heart health and potentially save your life," lead study author Dr. Randy Cohen, a preventive cardiologist at Mount Sinai St. Luke's and Mount Sinai Roosevelt, said in a news release. "Our study shows there is a strong relationship between having a sense of purpose in life and protection from dying or having a cardiovascular event. As part of our overall health, each of us needs to ask ourselves the critical question of 'do I have a sense of purpose in my life?' If not, you need to work toward the important goal of obtaining one for your overall well-being."

"Prior studies have linked a variety of psychosocial risk factors to heart disease, including negative factors such as anxiety and depression and positive factors such as optimism and social support," added study co-author Dr. Alan Rozanski, Director of Wellness and Prevention Programs for Mount Sinai Heart at the Mount Sinai Health System, according to a statement. "Based on our findings, future research should now further assess the importance of life purpose as a determinant of health and well-being and assess the impact of strategies designed to improve individuals' sense of life purpose."

The study was presented March 6 at the American Heart Association's EPI/Lifestyle 2015 Scientific Sessions in Baltimore.

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