A positive outlook on life might lower your risk of having a stroke, according to new research.
In an observational study, a nationally representative group of 6,044 adults over age 50 rated their optimism levels on a 16-point scale. Each point increase in optimism corresponded to a 9% decrease in acute stroke risk over a two-year follow-up period.
“Our work suggests that people who expect the best things in life actively take steps to promote health,” lead author Eric Kim, clinical psychology doctoral student at the University of Michigan, said in a news release.
The study is the first to discover a correlation between optimism and stroke. Previous research has showed that low pessimism and temporary positive emotions are linked to lower stroke risk.
The researchers analyzed self-reported stroke and psychological data from the ongoing Health and Retirement Study, collected between 2006 and 2008. Participants were stroke-free at the beginning of the study. They measured optimism levels with the modified Life Orientation Test-Revised, a widely used assessment tool in which participants rank their responses on a numeric scale.
The team used logistic regression analysis — a type of predictive model — to establish the association between optimism and stroke and adjusted for factors that might affect stroke risk, including chronic illness, self-reported health and socio-demographic, behavioral, biological and psychological conditions.
“Optimism seems to have a swift impact on stroke,” said Kim, noting that researchers followed participants for only two years.
The protective effect of optimism may primarily be due to behavioral choices that people make, such as taking vitamins, eating a healthy diet and exercising, the researchers said. However, some evidence suggests positive thinking might have a strictly biological impact as well.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio funded a part of the study through the Positive Psychology Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The study appears in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association — http://bit.ly/oC5mE9.