Having a Strong Sense of Purpose Protects Your Heart

Having a strong sense of purpose in life may lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to new findings by researchers at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai Roosevelt in New York.

The researchers defined “purpose in life” as having a sense of meaning and direction and a feeling that life is worth living. Those with a low sense of purpose, however, are more likely to die or suffer with cardiovascular problems.

“Developing and refining your sense of purpose could protect your heart health and potentially save your life,” says lead study author and preventive cardiologist Randy Cohen, M.D.

“Our study shows there is a strong relationship between having a sense of purpose in life and protection from dying or having a cardiovascular event. As part of our overall health, each of us needs to ask ourselves the critical question of ‘do I have a sense of purpose in my life?’ If not, you need to work toward the important goal of obtaining one for your overall well-being.”

Prior studies have linked purpose to psychological health and well-being, but the new Mount Sinai analysis found that a high sense of purpose is tied to a 23 percent reduction in death from all causes and a 19 percent reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, or the need for coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) or a cardiac stenting procedure.

For the study, the researchers looked over 10 relevant studies that included the data of more than 137,000 people. They analyzed the impact that having a sense of purpose has on death rates and risk of cardiovascular events.

The meta-analysis also found that those with a low sense of purpose are more likely to die or suffer from heart problems.

“Prior studies have linked a variety of psychosocial risk factors to heart disease, including negative factors such as anxiety and depression and positive factors such as optimism and social support,” said Alan Rozanski, M.D., study co-author and Director of Wellness and Prevention Programs for Mount Sinai Heart at the Mount Sinai Health System.

“Based on our findings, future research should now further assess the importance of life purpose as a determinant of health and well-being and assess the impact of strategies designed to improve individuals’ sense of life purpose.”

The findings were presented on March 6th at the American Heart Association’s EPI/Lifestyle 2015 Scientific Sessions in Baltimore.

Source: Mount Sinai Medical Center