Heart disease patients who exhibit positive attitudes and emotions are more likely to participate in heart-healthy behaviors, according to a new study from Pennsylvania State University.
The findings showed that patients who reported higher positive psychological states were more likely to be physically active, sleep better, less likely to smoke and more likely to take their heart medications, compared to patients with lower levels of positive states.
“Negative emotions and depression are known to have harmful effects on health, but it is less clear how positive emotions might be health-protective,” said Nancy L. Sin, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Healthy Aging and in the department of biobehavioral health at Pennsylvania State.
“We found that positive emotions are associated with a range of long-term health habits, which are important for reducing the risk of future heart problems and death.”
For the study, researchers tracked more than 1,000 patients with coronary heart disease for five years. The psychological well-being of patients was assessed at baseline and again at a five-year follow-up. Participants were asked to rate the extent that they had felt 10 specific positive emotions, including “interested,” “proud,” “enthusiastic,” and “inspired.”
Physical activity, sleep quality, medication adherence, and alcohol and cigarette use were also measured at baseline and again five years later.
“Higher levels of positive emotions were associated with less smoking, greater physical activity, better sleep quality,and more adherence to medications” at baseline, said the researchers. They found no correlation between positive emotions and alcohol use.
The researchers took into account patients’ demographic factors, depressive symptoms, and the severity of their heart conditions.
Though positive emotions at baseline did not predict changes in health behaviors five years later, increases in positive emotions across the five-year period were linked to improvements in physical activity, sleep quality, and medication adherence.
“Efforts to sustain or enhance positive emotions may be promising for promoting better health behaviors,” said the researchers.
There are several reasons why positive emotions are associated with good health habits, the researchers suggest.
People with greater positive well-being may be more motivated and persistent in engaging in healthy behaviors. They might have more confidence in their abilities to maintain routines such as physical activity and sleep hygiene. Positive emotions may also allow people to better adjust their health goals and to proactively cope with stress and setbacks.
This study paves the way for future research on interventions to improve health habits, Sin noted. More studies should be conducted on people with other types of chronic disease populations and should involve electronic tracking of their health behaviors.
The findings are published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
Source: Pennsylvania State