Optimism is Powerful Medicine

Optimistic people are easier to be around, and their enthusiasm can be contagious, but did you know that optimism may lower your risk of stroke, cancer, and other serious illnesses? A recent study of 70,000 women from the American Journal of Epidemiology provides strong support for a positive attitude.

The findings are compelling. In this long-running study,  more optimistic women enjoyed a 16% lower risk of death from cancer, 40% lower risk from cardiovascular or respiratory disease, and a 50% lower likelihood of death from infectious diseases over the course of about 8 years. Optimism was measured based on responses to a survey, and other health behaviors and conditions were taken into account in order to limit any mitigating factors.

In a report for Health Day, reporter Don Rauf reviewed the study and got opinions from experts around the country, including me. The important message is that optimism is not a fixed character trait. It can be nurtured and developed. As I told Rauf, “It’s easier to feel optimistic when you feel healthy and energetic. By choosing a healthy lifestyle, you may open yourself up to greater gratitude and create more energy for deeper relationships and professional satisfaction.”

To read more about the study, and to learn strategies to improve your sense of optimism, click on the link below.

Source: Optimism May Propel Women to a Longer Life

Divorce is a Heart Breaker for Women

February may be a month of Valentines and roses, but for many of us, it’s just a painful reminder of a once happy relationship gone bad. Divorce is stressful, painful, and complicated, and it can literally make your heart hurt.

A study published last year in the peer-reviewed medical journal Circulation  found that once-divorced women were 25% more likely to have a heart attack than women who remained married. Even after remarriage, the risk remained higher than average. For men, the risk was higher than average, but only matched the women’s risk after 2 divorces. For women, two divorces meant a 77% higher risk compared to those who had never divorced.

In an interview with reporter Tara Haelle, I suggested that “… likely it is the stress of divorce itself that created an unhealthy setting that promoted the development of heart disease. It’s impossible to know whether the women whose marriages ended in divorce were more likely to have other unhealthy relationships, and thus more sources of stress in their lives. Yet recent research has found strong evidence that women’s hearts react in a much more negative way to stress than those of men.”

Want to know more? Follow the link below to the article on the Forbes website.

Source: Divorce Could Literally (Eventually) Break A Woman’s Heart, Says Study – Forbes

Caring for a Stroke Victim May Take a Toll on the Spouse

Strokes can be devastating for the stroke victim, but also for the spouse. A new study breaks down the physical and mental toll exacted on the caregiver. Read journalist Tara Haelle’s report, and get my take on the study’s findings in this article from EverydayHealth.com

Source: Strokes Take a Toll – On the Survivor and Their Partner | Everyday Health

Stress May Reduce Coronary Blood Flow in Women

On any given day, most of use will experience stress in some form or fashion. In fact, stress can sometimes be good for us. It may keep us on track on our projects at home or at work, or impel us to learn to focus our energy to achieve our goals. However, we all know that stress can sometimes be overwhelming, making us feel out of control, angry, or unhappy.

In the past, studies of the effects of stress on the heart have been fairly neutral to slightly negative. However, until recent years, women were largely left out of cardiovascular research.

A new study from Emory evaluated 564 people with heart disease and put them through tests of physical stress and mental stress. Physical stress had a fairly neutral effect on these relatively stable patients. However, the researchers found that in women ages 55 through 64, mental stress had double the effect on the heart as it did for men. For women over 65, there was no substantial effect.

As I discussed with reported Nancy Maleki: “I think women tend to take stress to heart (excuse the pun!) more than men. We often take stress more personally, and consider ourselves at fault for the situation, whereas many men are able to shrug it off, or to compartmentalize the stress in their lives.”

While the study did not address ways to neutralize stress, I noted that “it’s important for women to learn healthy strategies to cope with the stressful situations in their live. Exercise is often a great way to blow off steam and to feel better about yourself in the process. Mindful activities like yoga and meditation can also make a difference, by teaching us how to breathe deeply and to clear out the negative thoughts and feelings that can keep us down. Even a fairly sedentary hobby like knitting or scrapbooking may help, by giving us something else to focus on, if only for a short time.”

To read more about the study, click on the link to DailyRx.com


Stress May Reduce Blood Flow for Some Heart Disease Patients | dailyRx.

Working Long Hours May Harm Your Heart

With the job market tight, and competition for good jobs fierce, many workers are finding themselves working longer and harder hours than ever before. This sure doesn’t feel healthy, and it makes it harder to maintain those good habits that can sustain good health. Now Korean researchers have confirmed suspicions that long working hours may raise the risk for heart disease.

The included over 8000 adults with an average age of 45, and found that those who worked 61 to 70 hours per week were 42% more likely to develop heart disease compared to those who worked 31-40 hours weekly. People whose work weeks amounted to 71 to 80 hours were at 63% higher risk, and those who peaked out over 80 hours raised their risk by 94%. Women appeared to be at even higher risk than men.

As I discussed with DailRx.com reported Nancy Maleki, “When most waking hours are taken up by work, it leaves little time for family obligations, and even less for ‘optional’ activities like exercise or preparing healthy meals.

“Relationships may also suffer, which itself can have negative impacts on health. Poor quality sleep may be another consequence. The end result is a higher risk for hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, all of which raise heart attack risk.”

While limiting work hours may not always be an option, it’s important to budget the limited time you have, and not to waste it all watching TV or staring at a computer screen. Choose simple yet healthy foods like pre-made salads and easy-to-cook tilapia instead of opting for fast foods or snack foods. And do your best to nurture your relationships and get a good night ‘s rest.

Working Long Hours May Increase Heart Disease Risk | dailyRx.

Socioeconomic Status Tied to Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) happens when the arteries to the legs (and sometimes the arms) become narrowed by cholesterol plaque. When the buildup is severe, this can lead to poor circulation, pain with walking, poor healing, and, in the worst cases, amputation. PAD shares the same risk factors that lead to heart disease, including hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and high cholesterol. However, a recent study from Harvard researchers found that even when those factors are taken into account, people of lower socioeconomic status are harder hit by PAD.

In an interview with reported Nancy Maleki, I pointed out that smoking and diabetes are especially important risk factors for PAD. And while “the cost of cigarettes might lead one to believe that poorer people would be less likely to smoke, in fact that is not the case. Smoking is much more prevalent amongst people of lower socioeconomic background. So is diabetes. But even when smoking, diabetes, and other risk factors were controlled for, people who lived in poverty, regardless of race or ethnicity, were still more likely to have PAD.”

“There is no way to know exactly why this is The authors point out that chronic stress is one possible factor. Stress is known to raise blood levels of inflammation, which may be directly harmful to our arteries.”

The study raises more questions than it answers, but suggests that the effects of stress may be wide ranging. Whether you are rich or poor, getting stress under control is an important part of a heart healthy lifestyle.

You can learn more about the study by clicking the link below.

Socioeconomic Status Tied to PAD Risk | dailyRx.

A Positive Attitude May Improve Heart Health

Although bad things may happen to good and happy people, a new study from Denmark suggests that keeping a good attitude can help heart patients live longer.

In an interview with DailyRx reporter Don Rauf, I elaborated on the study by explaining that “Sometimes it’s hard to put on a happy face, but other research shows us that sometimes you really can fake it ’til you make it. Just pretending to be in a good mood can often lead to healthier choices which in turn will make us feel better and keep the good work going. Choosing friends who are positive, rather than hanging out with others with a negative attitude, can also help.”

To read more about this study and its implications, follow the link below. In my book, Best Practices for a Healthy Heart, I devote a chapter to “Attitude and Stress,” explaining how personality type and optimism vs pessimism can have far-reaching health effects.

A Positive Attitude Lifts the Heart | dailyRx.

Stress Causes Physical Symptoms in Women but is not Fatal

While stress might not be a fatal condition, it can lead to a wide variety of physical symptoms which can seriously impact quality of life. The good news? A recent study of Swedish women found that stressed-out women were no more likely to die young than those with minimal stress. Get my take on the study from this article published on DailyRx.com

Unexplained Aches and Pains of Stress | dailyRx.