Happy head-space, happier heart

People with heart disease may benefit from maintaining positive emotions, according to health researchers.

Over the course of five years the researchers tracked more than 1,000 patients with coronary heart disease. Patients who reported higher positive psychological states were more likely to be physically active, sleep better and take their heart medications and were also less likely to smoke, compared to patients with lower levels of positive states.

The researchers assessed psychological well-being of participants at baseline and again at a five-year follow-up by asking the participants to rate the extent that they had felt 10 specified positive emotions, including “interested,” “proud,” “enthusiastic” and “inspired.” Physical activity, sleep quality, medication adherence and alcohol and cigarette use were also measured at baseline and again five years later. The researchers report their findings in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

“Higher levels of positive emotions were associated with less smoking, greater physical activity, better sleep quality and more adherence to medications” at baseline, said the researchers. They found no correlation between positive emotions and alcohol use. The results took into account patients’ demographic factors, depressive symptoms and the severity of their heart conditions.

There are a number of reasons why positive emotions are linked to optimal health habits, the researchers suggest. People with greater positive well-being may be more motivated and persistent in engaging in healthy behaviors. They might have more confidence in their abilities to maintain routines such as physical activity and sleep hygiene. Positive emotions may also enable people to better adjust their health goals and to proactively cope with stress and setbacks.

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Journal Reference:

  1. Nancy L. Sin, Judith Tedlie Moskowitz, Mary A. Whooley. Positive Affect and Health Behaviors Across 5 Years in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2015; 1 DOI:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000238
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