Therapy That Works...

Optimistic Women and Heart Disease - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Optimistic Women And Heart Disease

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, Jan 21, 2010

Twice as many women die from cardiovascular disease as from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer. Now a new study from the American Heart Association shows that women with sunny outlooks may have better heart health and live longer.

But how does “seeing the glass half full” protect you from developing heart disease?

The Mind Controls the Body: This study illustrates once again the interrelationship of the mind, i.e. attitude and its direct effect on the body. Of the 97,000 women studied, optimistic women were 14% less likely to die over eight years than their pessimistic counterparts. They were 9% less likely to develop coronary heart disease and 30% less likely to develop heart complications.

Well-Being and Optimism: Optimism infuses the mind and the body with a sense of well-being and self-esteem during the good times and serves as a buffer to disaster when adversity hits. Your body is not constantly bathing in stress hormones and your immune system remains hardier and unchallenged.

Better Health Habits: We also know that optimistic women have better health habits. They rest and exercise more, they eat better and they are less likely to smoke or to be obese. They have lower rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. An optimistic woman is simply less likely to stress herself out and develop these chronic health issues.

If you don’t think that a pessimistic outlook is a problem, you should reconsider:

Negative women pay a distinct price for their reactivity in their physical and psychological well-being. If you are stressing out all the time, you will slowly destroy your immune system and you will die at an earlier age. Women live close to their emotions and they affect all aspects of our lives. The more negative you become, the more depression and stress increases. Creativity disappears, problem solving slows and social relationships dwindle. Efforts to improve your circumstances decrease along with your physical and emotional health. Clearly, this study shows us that optimism is a disease prevention attitude.

Beyond these two groups, there is another more specialized population – “cynical hostility.”

The study found that women with “cynical hostility” (having negative, hostile thoughts toward others along with a general mistrust) were 16% more likely to die during the eight-year time span of the study. Other studies have shown that cynical women are 29% more likely to suffer a premature death and these findings hold even after classical risk factors are factored in (smoking, obesity, etc). The bottom line is that negative attitudes alienate other people and ruin your physical health in the long run. Strong social ties are a health prevention strategy, especially for women. People with high social involvement have the lowest mortality rates while isolated people have the highest rates.

Are you worried? Here’s how to change your outlook to avoid the penalties of pessimism and maximize your life!

There are a couple of major strategies you can implement immediately:

Inventory of Friends: Assess the negativity level of your friends. Emotions are contagious and one negative person in your life can be optimism “killer.” Toxic friends are bad for your health and they need to be either seen in measured doses or completely ushered from your life.

Increase Your Emotional Muscle: Emotionally resilient people tend to specialize in emotional self-control. They face adversity with optimism and don’t wallow in setbacks that are inevitable parts of life. Resilient people tend to do the following:

Permanence: They interpret good things as permanent and bad things as temporary.

Pervasive: When good things happen, they celebrate all of life and infuse themselves and other with good cheer. When adversity hits, they do not view their entire lives as difficult and defeated.

Personal: Well-adjusted people take responsibility for their mistakes but they are realistic in assessing self-blame. They do not blame themselves automatically when adversity hits, but focus on what they can do to change the outcome for the better.

For more information on Dr. Sylvia, please go to


"The Resilience Factor" by Dr. Karen Reivich and Dr. Andrew Shatte

"Mind Body Health" by Brent Hafen, Keith Karren, Kathryn Frandsen and N. Lee Smith

Circulation, Journal of the American Heart Association

Recent Posts