A positive outlook on life may do more than just put a smile on your face, as a new study suggests a positive demeanor may lower your risk of stroke.

In the study, researchers asked a nationally representative group of 6,044 adults over age 50 to rate their optimism levels on a 16-point scale. Upon analysis, each point increase in optimism corresponded to a 9 percent decrease in acute stroke risk over a two-year follow-up period.

The study is published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

“Our work suggests that people who expect the best things in life actively take steps to promote health,” said Eric Kim, lead author and a clinical psychology doctoral student at the University of Michigan..

Optimism is the expectation that more good things, rather than bad, will happen.

The finding supports prior research that has shown an optimistic attitude is associated with better heart health outcomes and enhanced immune-system functioning, among other positive effects.

The current study is the first to discover a correlation between optimism and stroke. Previous research has shown that low pessimism and temporary positive emotions are linked to lower stroke risk.

Investigators reviewed data from the Health and Retirement Study, a self-report occurring between the years 2006 and 2008. Participants were stroke-free at the beginning of the study.

The team used statistical methods to establish the association between optimism and stroke and adjusted for factors that might affect stroke risk, including chronic illness, self-reported health and sociodemographic, behavioral, biological and psychological conditions.

“Optimism seems to have a swift impact on stroke,” said Kim, noting that researchers followed participants for only two years.

Researchers theorize the protective effect of optimism may extend to making healthy choices such as taking vitamins, eating a healthy diet and exercising.

However, some evidence suggests the benefits from positive thinking are mainly a result of positive biological changes.

Source: American Heart Association