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Fall 2013

Don't Worry, Be Healthy

Date: October 1, 2013

People with cheerful temperaments are significantly less likely to suffer a heart attack or sudden cardiac death, new Hopkins research suggests.

Previous research has shown that depressed and anxious people are more likely to have heart attacks and to die from them than those whose dispositions are sunnier. But the new study shows that a general sense of well-being—feeling cheerful, relaxed, energetic, and satisfied with life—actually reduces the chances of a heart attack.

 “A happier temperament has an actual effect on disease and you may be healthier as a result,” says study leader Lisa R. Yanek.

Yanek cautioned that cheerful personalities are likely part of the temperament we are born with, not something we can easily change. While some have suggested that happy people are also more likely to take better care of themselves and have more energy to do so, Yanek says her research shows that those with higher levels of well-being still had many risk factors for coronary disease but had fewer serious heart events.

The mechanisms behind the protective effect of positive well-being remain unclear, Yanek notes, but her research offers insights into the interactions between mind and body, and could yield clues to those mechanisms in the future.  Stephanie Desmon