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Prescription For Heart Health: Positive Thinking

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    Prescription For Heart Health: Positive Thinking Optimism is good for heart health, at least among men, a new study shows. University of Rochester Medical
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 15, 2008
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      Prescription For Heart Health: Positive Thinking

      Optimism is good for heart health, at least
      among men, a new study shows.

      University of Rochester Medical Center researcher
      Robert Gramling, M.D., D.Sc., found that men who
      believed they were at lower-than-average risk for
      cardiovascular disease actually experienced a
      three times lower incidence of death from heart
      attacks and strokes.

      The data did not support the same conclusion among
      women. One possible explanation for the gender
      difference, researchers said, is that the study
      began in 1990, a time when heart disease was
      believed to be primarily a threat to men. Therefore,
      women's judgments about how often heart attacks
      occur among average women might have been
      disproportionately low.

      The study is published in the July-August issue
      of Annals of Family Medicine.

      The 15-year surveillance study involved 2,816 adults
      in New England between the ages of 35 and 75 who had
      no history of heart disease. Researchers collected
      baseline data from 1990-1992; outcomes were obtained
      from the National Death Index records through
      December 2005.

      Researchers were interested in measuring whether
      optimistic perceptions of risk might protect people
      from the fear-related coping behaviors (overeating
      comfort foods, too much alcohol, or avoiding the
      doctor) or the stress that can be associated with
      heart disease.

      They asked people at the outset, "Compared with
      persons of your own age and sex, how would you rate
      your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in
      the next 5 years?"

      Men's views were more discordant. Almost half of
      the men who self-rated their risk to be "low"
      would have been classified by objective medical
      tests as having "high" or "very high" risk. Most
      women who rated their risk to be "low" were far
      more accurate than the men.

      "Clearly, holding optimistic perceptions of risk
      has its advantages for men," said Gramling, an
      assistant professor of Family Medicine and Community
      and Preventive Medicine.

      If doctors are to accurately explain risks to
      patients, it's important for them to first understand
      how people perceive health risks. The study also
      pointed out that as genetic testing and advanced
      imaging continues to offer individuals more information
      about their future health, good communication is essential.

      "It is not clear whether we should seek to disabuse
      people of optimistic 'misperceptions' in pursuit
      of changing behavior." Gramling said. "Perhaps we
      should work on changing behaviors by instilling more
      confidence in the capacity to prevent having a heart
      attack, rather than raising fears about having one."

      Article adapted by Medical News Today from original
      press release.

      The National Human Genome Research Institute (ELSI branch)
      of the National Institutes of Health funded the study,
      which was conducted when Gramling was a faculty member
      at Brown University's Center for Primary Care and
      Prevention, Memorial Hospital in Rhode Island. He
      recently joined the Rochester Center to Improve
      Communication in Health Care, at the University of
      Rochester Medical Center. He is working on similar
      research funded by the National Institute of Nursing
      Research of the NIH.
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