By Lilian Anekwe
Positive emotions may protect against heart disease, according to a major study that found people who usually feel happy, enthusiastic and content are less at risk of ischaemic heart disease than ‘negative’ people.
A prospective study of nearly 2,000 Canadian men and women who were followed for 10 years found that for every point scored on a five point scale of ‘outwardly displayed positive affect’, their risk of heart attack or angina decreased by 22% relative to those one point more negative than themselves.
The American researchers speculated about the possible mechanisms by which positive emotions might confer long-term protection from heart disease, including influence on heart rates, sleeping patterns and smoking cessation.
Lead researcher Dr Karina Davidson, said it might be possible to help prevent heart disease by enhancing people’s positive emotions, but and GPs should recommend patients take ‘relatively easy’ steps to increase their positive affect.
‘People can ensure they have some pleasurable activities in their daily lives. Some people wait for their two weeks of vacation to have fun, and that would be analogous to binge drinking. Spending some few minutes each day truly relaxed and enjoying yourself is certainly good for your mental health, and may improve your physical health as well.’
European Heart Journal, published online 18 February
The study found that people who usually felt enthusiastic and content were less at risk than ‘negative’ people The study found that people who usually felt enthusiastic and content were less at risk than ‘negative’ people