Dr. Ken Fujise Dr. Naveed Adoni
By Dr. Ken Fujise and Dr. Naveed Adoni
We’ve all been intuitively aware a positive attitude can make you feel better.

As doctors, we’re constantly reminding people how diabetes or smoking can increase your risk of heart disease. And of course, medical advances help us treat and prevent the risk of heart disease. But not much attention has been given to the fact that being happy, in love or just plain positive in nature can lower your risk of heart disease.

The Canadian Nova Scotia Health Survey, a large study with 10 years of follow-up, showed people who generally are happier or have a positive outlook on life were 22 percent less likely of developing coronary artery disease.

This positive attitude has been shown to influence factors that contribute to good heart health, including decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressures, enhanced modulation of heart rate, a lower risk of developing diabetes and lower stress and cortisol levels. (Too much cortisol can lead to craving comfort foods that lead to obesity.) It also can improve a body’s immune system. Being happy and positive can help you lower your risk of a stroke.

Other positive indicators include decreasing the mortality rate among hospital patients as well as diabetic patients.

It has been shown to decrease rates of death and heart attacks in patients after a coronary stent procedure.

Conversely, several studies have associated anger, hostility and depression with increased deaths and heart attacks in both healthy people and those with known history of coronary heart disease.

The positive affect is relatively easy to judge in clinical trials. Does hthe patient experience pleasure and excitement in daily life and enjoy hobbies and interaction with family and friends?

Interestingly, studies have shown the beneficial effects of the positive affect are largely independent of a negative mood. A generally content person can reap the benefits of these attributes and occasionally be angry or depressed.

Do your heart some good by expressing your love and gratitude to loved ones. Being happy and cheerful not only will make you and your heart feel good, it’s much cheaper than a visit to the cardiologist.

Dr. Ken Fujise is head of the division of cardiology at UTMB. Dr. Naveed Adoni is a cardiology resident at UTMB.