A new study by the American Heart Association says positive mental health and generally staying optimistic about life can reduce a person’s chances of developing heart disease. The expression “healthy mind, healthy body” might have some scientific backing.

“A person’s mind, heart and body are all interconnected and interdependent in what can be termed ‘the mind-heart-body-connection,’” says Glenn N. Levine, M.D., FAHA, from Baylor College of Medicine and the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in a media release. “Research has clearly demonstrated that negative psychological factors, personality traits and mental health disorders can negatively impact cardiovascular health. On the other hand, studies have found positive psychological attributes are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.”

When you literally look on the bright side of things, researchers find a host of health benefits.

“The data is consistent, suggesting that positive psychological traits play a part in better cardiovascular health,” Levine adds.

Positive mental health isn’t just about how you think though. Researchers say people with better mental health usually have more positive social relationships and a bigger support network.

“Wellness is more than simply the absence of disease. It is an active process directed toward a healthier, happier and more fulfilling life, and we must strive to reduce negative aspects of psychological health and promote an overall positive and healthy state of being. In patients with or at risk for heart disease, health care professionals need to address the mental wellness of the patient in tandem with the physical conditions affecting the body, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, chest pain, etc,” Baylor’s master clinician and professor of medicine concludes.

Additionally, the researchers noted that negative mental conditions (depression, anxiety, stress, etc.) can lead to adverse effects on the heart. The study finds patients dealing with these psychological problems generally have a higher risk of heart rate and rhythm abnormalities, digestive issues, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, and less blood flow to the heart.

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