By Mary Sakacs
Looking at things from a positive perspective has always been said to improve your attitude and help get you through the day with a smile on your face. My mother would always tell me that I am responsible for my happiness and having a negative outlook would only bring me a bad day, so I should think positive! I believed that optimism would make me a happier person, but I didn’t realize that it could also make me a healthier one.
According to a study reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, possessing a positive attitude can lessen your chances of having a stroke. Eric Kim, a clinical psychology doctoral student from University of Michigan performed a study where he rated the optimism level on a 16-point scale of 6,044 adults over the age of 50. Results showed that for every point increase in optimism there was a 9 percent decrease in stroke risk over a two-year follow-up period. Kim gathered from this that those with a more optimistic outlook take more efficient steps in maintaining a healthy lifestyle than those with a less optimistic approach.
While there has been prior research that verified a positive manner corresponds with better heart health such as enhanced immune-system functioning, this study was the first to establish a link between optimism and strokes in particular.
Researchers examined stroke and psychological data from the Health and Retirement Study completed between 2006 and 2008 and calculated participant’s optimism levels with an instrument called Life Orientation Test-Revised. From this, researchers gained significant knowledge on the connection between optimism and stroke. They looked for any characteristics that could be responsible for resulting in stroke risk. Some, they concluded, were chronic illness, behavioral, biological, and psychological conditions.
From the results of this study, Kim believes that optimism does substantially have an affect on a person’s risk of stroke. So what is it about optimism that lessens the probability of having a stroke?
According to Kim, having a positive attitude is what leads us to perform proactive actions like taking vitamins, maintaining a healthy diet, and a physical lifestyle. Those who tend to have a more pessimistic outlook tend to not participate in such beneficial behaviors to keep them healthy. There has also been prior evidence proving that positive thinking could also have to do with a biological impact.
Whether it is our biological make-up that is most responsible for our mind-set or not, it’s probably best to try to wake up on the right side of the bed rather than the wrong.
Mary Sakacs is a student at Fairleigh Dickinson University majoring in Communications studies. She is currently an editorial intern at Bioscience Technology.