If You're Happy and You Know It, Will Your Heart Show It?

By Holly Glaubitz, Health Educator and Worksite Lead

 

In March, the media reported great news for Minnesotans -- according to the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Minnesota ranked #3 when looking at the happiest U.S. states. So, can having a general feeling of happiness and overall well-being prevent heart disease? Current research from Harvard University shows it just might.

 

Health professionals spend a lot of time touting the research that shows the negative health effects that stress can have on your body (not to mention your mind). For example, we know that prolonged stress can cause wear and tear on our heart.

Prolonged anger and anxiety can disrupt your heart's electrical system. We also know the stress hormones can affect the size of our fat cells. What we are now just starting to look at is the positive effect that good stress management and a positive outlook on life can have on the heart.

 

Recent research from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that factors such as life satisfaction and optimism are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, smoking and body weight. In fact, in one research study, those with a positive outlook had a 50 percent less chance of having an initial coronary event.

 

And the benefits of a positive outlook start early. Research has shown that children who are able to stay focused and have a positive outlook at age seven report better general health and less illness 30 years later. It appears that a happy childhood correlates to good health and a positive outlook as an adult.

 

While more research is needed in the area of happiness and heart disease, it looks like having a positive mental state is good for your mind and your heart.