November 12, 2001
MEDIA CONTACT: Karen Blum
A positive outlook may offer the strongest known protection against heart disease
in adults at risk, according to a Johns Hopkins study. The report, which looked
at nearly 600 adults with a family history of heart disease, will be presented
Nov. 12 at the American Heart Association's annual Scientific Sessions in Anaheim,
Study participants with a good attitude were only half as likely as their less
optimistic counterparts to experience a heart "event" such
as sudden death, heart attack or unstable chest pain that required surgery
during an average seven-and-a-half-year period. This result was seen among all
participants regardless of age, race or sex. Researchers observed the power
of positive thinking even after adjusting for traditional risk factors for heart
disease, including cholesterol, weight and cigarette smoking.
"It's possible that the people with positive attitude produce lower levels
of stress hormones, which helps protect them from disease," says Diane
M. Becker, Sc.D., M.P.H., senior author of the study and director of Hopkins'
Center for Health Promotion. "In future studies, we'd like to examine whether
adding pleasurable activities to the lives of this population affects heart
Researchers studied 586 adults ages 30 to 59 with no symptoms of heart disease
but whose brothers and sisters had been diagnosed with early heart disease.
All subjects underwent a standardized personality survey as well as tests for
high blood pressure, blood sugar, body fat measurements, blood fat levels, smoking
and other risk factors, diabetes and lifestyle information. Participants were
then followed for five to 12 years with regular stress tests and questionnaires.
At the study's start, the participants had an average age of 45. Fifty-one
percent were male and 17 percent were African American. During the follow-up
period, 70 participants (11.9 percent) had heart events. Education level, diabetes
and smoking status were not found to be strong predictors of heart disease.
The study's co-authors were Lisa R. Yanek, Taryn F. Moy and Lewis C. Becker.
Abstract #103966: "General Well-being is Strongly Protective Against Future Coronary Heart Disease Events in an Apparently Healthy High-risk Population."
Related Web Sites:
Johns Hopkins - Division of Cardiology
American Heart Association Scientific Sessions