People in midlife who look on the “sunny side” are likely to have healthy cholesterol levels, according to findings by Harvard University researchers.
“Optimism is associated with a healthier lipid profile,” said lead study author Julia Boehm, PhD, research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. “[But] we don’t know whether optimism causes healthier lipid levels or whether people with healthier lipid levels are generally more healthy and optimistic. This research provides one more piece of evidence suggesting that our psychological and physical health are intertwined, and that viewing the world optimistically may have some tangible benefits for living healthier lives.”
Researchers wanted to test the association between optimism and lipid levels because optimism has been linked to behaviors that promote well-being—such as eating a balanced diet and exercising. Investigators collected data, including fasting blood samples and self-reports of levels of optimism, from 990 male and female participants in the Midlife in the United States study. Data analysis showed that a more positive outlook was associated with greater high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and lower triglyceride levels—both indicators of overall heart health. “We found in our research that health behaviors could partially explain optimism’s link with healthier lipids,” said Boehm.
Study findings were reported in The American Journal of Cardiology (2013; doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.20 13.01.292).