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Sunny disposition may shield you from heart problems

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© iStockphoto.com / Oleg Prikhodko © iStockphoto.com / Oleg Prikhodko

MONDAY, July 22 (HealthDay News) -- Being cheerful and optimistic may greatly reduce your risk of heart problems, according to a new study.

"If you are by nature a cheerful person and look on the bright side of things, you are more likely to be protected from cardiac events," study leader Lisa Yanek, an assistant professor in general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a Hopkins news release. "A happier temperament has an actual effect on disease, and you may be healthier as a result."

Yanek and her colleagues examined data from more than 7,400 Americans and found that being cheerful, relaxed, energetic and satisfied with life reduced the risk of heart attack, sudden cardiac death and other serious heart problems by as much as 50 percent.

The mechanisms behind the protective effect of being upbeat and positive are unclear, Yanek said.

The study was published recently in the American Journal of Cardiology. Previous research has shown that depressed and anxious people are more likely to have heart attacks and to die from them than those with sunnier personalities.

The new study found an association between optimism and heart health, but it didn't prove cause-and-effect.

Yanek noted that people with cheerful personalities tend to be born that way, and it's not easy for people to change their temperament.

It's been suggested that people endowed with a cheerful disposition are also more likely to take better care of themselves and have more energy to do so. However, Yanek said her research shows that upbeat people still had many risk factors for heart disease but had fewer serious heart events.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health outlines what you can do to reduce heart risks.

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