Want to reduce your risk of having a stroke? Cheer up! A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that optimistic people had a reduced risk of stroke.
Optimism’s protective effect could be explained by the fact that optimistic people tend to make healthier choices about exercise and diet, say researchers. But it is also possible that positive thinking has a direct impact on biology.
“Our work suggests that people who expect the best things in life actively take steps to promote health,” said study researcher Eric Kim. “People have the notion that optimists are less knowledgeable of health-related behaviors or just ignore physical symptoms when they come up. The literature actually shows the opposite.”
Optimists have more knowledge about heart health and are more likely to act on it because they believe their actions will make a difference and that treatment will actually do something, he added.
People who are optimistic expect favorable outcomes and focus on the most hopeful aspects of any given situation. Previously, optimism has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease and a healthier immune system.
The study, published online in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, included 6,044 adults aged 50 and older who self-rated their health and optimism on a 16-point scale. They were followed for two years.
More research is needed before scientists understand exactly how optimism improves health, but in the meantime, it can’t hurt to think the future is bright.