Optimism Linked to Lower Stroke Risk

Stroke risk reduced with optimistim

(RxWiki News) There's something to be said for patients brimming with optimism. A positive outlook may actually improve your health. Those with a sunny outlook may be at a reduced risk of stroke.

In an observational study, a nationally representative group of more than 6,000 adults over the age of 50 rated their optimism levels on a 16-point scale. For each point in optimism, patients were found to have a 9 percent decrease in risk of an acute stroke over the following two-year period.

"A positive outlook may actually lower your stroke risk."

Eric Kim, study lead author and a clinical psychology doctoral student at the University of Michigan, said the study suggests that those who expect the best out of life are taking proactive steps to protect their health. 

Previous research also has suggested that an optimistic attitude is linked to better health outcomes, but this study was the first to examine how optimism might affect the risk of stroke.

Investigators analyzed self-reported stroke and psychological data from the ongoing Health and Retirement Study between 2006 and 2008. When the study began, none of the participants had experienced a stroke.

Participants' optimism levels were measured with the modified Life Orientation Test-Revised, an assessment tool in which participants rank responses on a numeric scale. Those scores were adjusted for factors that could affect stroke risk such as chronic illness, health results that were self reported and psychological conditions. Participants were followed for two years.

Researchers suspect that the protective effect may be a result of behavioral choices that more optimistic people make such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising and taking vitamins. Some evidence still suggests there may be a strictly biological protective element as well.

Stroke is the third most common cause of death among Americans. The research was published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Review Date: 
July 25, 2011