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Cheerful Moods Can Lower Risk of Severe Cardiac Events

Update Date: Jul 10, 2013 01:51 PM EDT

How a person handles stress and deals with everyday events can greatly influence both mental and physical health. Several studies have found evidence that people who keep an optimistic viewpoint in life tend to be healthier. In a new study, researchers looked at the effects of having a cheerful mood, as well as other emotions, on cardiovascular diseases or events. They found that people who were generally more cheerful and relaxed had a lower risk of suffering from a severe cardiac event, such as heart attacks and sudden cardiac death.

"If you are by nature a cheerful person and look on the bright side of things, you are more likely to be protected from cardiac events," said study leader Lisa R. Yanek, M.P.H., an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reported by Medical Xpress. "A happier temperament has an actual effect on disease and you may be healthier as a result."

The researchers from Johns Hopkins used data provided from GeneSTAR, the Genetic Study of Atherosclerosis Risk, which is a 25 year long study conducted by fellow researchers and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). From this study, the researchers used the data of 1,483 healthy siblings of people who have suffered from a coronary event before they reached 60-years-old. Siblings are known to be two times more likely to suffer from a coronary event if a fellow sibling has already experienced one. The participants were followed for five to 25 years in this study.

The participants were given wellbeing surveys that measured cheerful mood, relaxed mood, level of concern regarding one's health, anxiety levels, energy levels and life satisfaction. Of these participants, the average follow-up was 12 years in which 208 siblings suffered from some kind of coronary event, which included heart attacks, sudden cardiac deaths, acute coronary syndrome and surgery. The researchers found that having a cheerful mood lowered one's risk by one-third. For people who were classified as high-risk, having a cheerful mood reduced their chances of suffering from a coronary event by 50 percent. The researchers accounted for variables, such as age, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

The researchers conducted one more study to validate their findings. They used the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which had an average follow-up of 16 years. Based from the data of 5,992 people, the researchers found that 20.5 percent, or 1,226 people, suffered from a cardiovascular event. People who reported cheerful moods were 13 percent less likely to experience a coronary event.

Even though the researchers found a strong link between cheerfulness and reduction in cardiovascular events, the researchers stated that risk for heart diseases were still present even if the mood reduced the chances of suffering from a severe cardiac event. The researchers also stated that people are most likely born with a cheerful temperament and that attempting to change one's personality would be hard to achieve.

The study was published in the American Journal of Cardiology

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