- Reviewed by Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing
Conversations about heart disease and mental health often dwell on the overlap between cardiovascular problems and negative emotions. It makes sense: People with depression face a heightened risk of heart problems. Also, it's common — and understandable — to feel moody, distressed, or irritable after a heart attack.
Increasingly, however, mental health experts are focusing on how optimism and other positive emotions can guard against serious heart-related events and death. Optimism is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a 2022 review in The American Journal of Medicine that pooled findings from nearly 182,000 people from six separate studies. People who are happier or more optimistic may be more likely to exercise more, eat more healthfully, and sleep better, which might explain the link. But can people who aren't naturally cheerful actually improve their physical health by changing their mindset?
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About the Author
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
About the Reviewer
Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing
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