February is Heart Disease Awareness Month. I could write the usual article blog about what behaviors increase the chance of having a heart attack, or I could describe the signs and symptoms of the disease. However, everyone else is writing about that. I thought that I would take a more positive tack. It turns out that having a positive attitude and having hope and curiosity can keep your heart healthy.

A study of over 6000 men and women from age 25 to 74 who were studied for 20 years found a sense of enthusiasm and hope, emotional balance, engagement in life and the ability to deal with stress reduced the risk of coronary artery disease. Not only did these individuals cut their risk of heart disease in half, they also had a reduced incidence of other chronic diseases.

The researchers of the study suggest that 40 to 50% of our optimism is inherited. Looking at the upside, the other half or 60% is under our control. In other words, to insure a healthy heart it is important to find ways to help you and your family to develop a positive attitude.

Another study of 1000 patients tracked those with coronary artery disease over 5 years. Higher levels of positivity were associated with less smoking, more exercise, improved sleep quality and adherence to medications. That may account for why a positive attitude can improve heart health, but there is probably something else as well.

A recent study of 1500 people with a strong family history of heart disease found that those with a positive attitude had improved heart health. In this group, a sense of wellbeing was associated with a 33% reduction in cardiac events. Those at highest risk (with multiple siblings or parents with heart disease) had a 48% reduction despite having other cardiac risk factors such as smoking.

It is clear that our mind is incredibly powerful. With a positive attitude, hope and enthusiasm your heart can remain healthy as well as the rest of your body. Optimism is contagious. This will extend to those around you as well. If you can find your positive, happy self it can change you, your heart and the world.

“A healthy attitude is contagious but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier. “

Tom Stoppard